Posters adorning Mr. Rogers’ iconic smiling face and red cable-knit sweater can now be found around campus. These are directional markers for the self-guided tour celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the original airing of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on the Public Broadcasting Network (PBS).
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood ran from 1968 to 2001 and starred Fred McFeely Rogers ’51, a figure known primarily for a gentle and selfless demeanor that he exhibited both on and off the show.
Rogers transferred to Rollins College in 1948 and earned a bachelor’s degree in Music Composition. Throughout his life, Mr. Rogers would contribute to the college as well as cite Rollins as an important influence in his life.
The tour starts inside the Cornell Fine Arts Museum. Rogers’ blue tennis shoes and blue knitted sweater are displayed in a wooden and glass casing. In each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Rogers would famously tie these shoes when entering and leaving the set and wear a sweater knitted by his mother, Nancy. These items were gifted to Rollins by Rogers himself.
The next stop is in the Tiedke Concert Hall. The first room is referred to as the ‘Fred Rogers Plaza and Lobby.’ There is a painting of Rogers that was painted by Don Sontag Jr. Next to the painting is a picture of an older Rogers on the balcony of the concert hall.
Since Rogers was a music student at Rollins, it is only appropriate that the room is named after him is inside the concert hall.
The third stop features Rogers’ stone in the Rollins Walk of Fame. Engraved in the stone is Rogers’ full name, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and his graduation year. The stone’s laying was overseen by former Rollins president Rita Bornstein in 1991.
The participant reaches the fourth and most informative site in the tour at the Olin Library. After entering the library, there is a glass casing between the two entry doors. It contains photographs, books, letters, and other miscellaneous items, most of which are related to Rogers’ time at Rollins.
One of the items is a photo that was published in The Sandspur of Rogers and his future wife, Joanne Byrd Rogers, in 1949. He and his wife had won a costume party sponsored by Lambda Chi.
As the tour ends, the participant is led to Strong Hall where they will see the fifth site: a plaque with the words “Life Is For Service” engraved on it. Mr. Rogers has claimed that he was greatly inspired by these words when he first saw them in a different area of campus as a young student. In fact, he carried them in his wallet long after he graduated.
The plaque exemplifies the selflessness and generosity that Mr. Rogers demonstrated throughout his life and the values Rollins tries to instill in its students.
The self-guided tour set up by Rollins honors the character of Mr. Rogers and the college itself. The tour is open to everyone.
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