With his trademark red cardigan sweater and tennis shoes, Fred Rogers changed the face of children's television. In 1968, Rogers created the preschool television series 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood,’ which ran for 33 years. The program was critically acclaimed for focusing on children's emotional and physical concerns, such as death, sibling rivalry, school enrollment, and divorce. At the center of the show, of course, was Rogers himself: a Protestant minister who worked as the series' producer, host, and head puppeteer. He also wrote the scripts and songs. At its peak in 1985, nearly 8% of American households regularly tuned in to watch the show, which always began with Rogers changing into a sweater and tennis shoes and singing, "Won't you be my neighbor?"
Throughout his career, Rogers was a champion of child education in general and PBS in particular. In 1969, he famously testified before a Senate subcommittee that was considering cutting funding for public television. The success of his long-running show earned Rogers several awards, including four daytime Emmys, a 1997 Lifetime Achievement award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and, in 2002, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2018, the U.S. Postal Service honored Rogers by producing a Forever Stamp with his likeness.
Before Rogers was known as a great teacher, he was a great student, enrolling at Dartmouth College in 1946. The Ivy League was a natural destination for Rogers, who had excelled in high school, winning many awards and honors as an accomplished scholar before his first college course. At the time, Rogers was attracted to the study of Romance languages, which drew him to Dartmouth—the University was known for its fine language program. However, Rogers also experienced uncertainty of himself while at Dartmouth. Unable to connect with his roommates, he left his dorm and moved in with his French teacher, who gave him a more civilized living environment. Ultimately, Dartmouth's lack of a music major (Rogers had turned his attention towards music) would soon be too much for the young man. He transferred out of Dartmouth in 1948 without graduating.
Rogers would have to wait over fifty years before he finally added a Dartmouth degree to his trophy case. In 2002, the beloved television host returned to his alma mater for some unfinished business. Rogers was not only the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, but he was also selected as that year's commencement speaker. Ever the role model, Rogers stressed the importance of investing in human lives, while trying to make "goodness attractive again." During his talk to the Class of 2002, Rogers also reflected upon valuable life lessons and the imprint of Dartmouth upon his life, including an appreciation for astronomy. He said, “Our world hangs like a magnificent jewel in the vastness of space."