"Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood" is now streaming on Netflix, which is fitting since the Rollins alum helped pave the way for the streaming media giant.
Rogers presented renowned baritone John Reardon ’52, Betty Aberline, and puppet Lady Elaine Fairchilde (costumed for her role as a hummingbird) in an opera special for children on PBS. (Photo courtesy of Rollins College Archives & Special Collections)
1. Fred Rogers’s ’51 ’74H testimony helped save the VCR and paved the way for Netflix.
In the early 1980s, some entertainment producers didn’t think people should be able to record shows at home, so Universal Studios filed a lawsuit against Sony Corporation that eventually went before the Supreme Court . Rogers testified for Sony saying he did not object to people recording his shows because he was in favor of a person’s ability to be “more active in the control of his or her life, in a healthy way.” The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Sony and the case has served as a precedent for other popular recording and streaming technologies, including iPhones and Netflix.
2. He was inspired by the “Life is for Service” motto engraved in marble by Strong Hall.
A marble engraving on a wall near Strong Hall reads “Life is for Service.”
3. He spoke at the speed of 124 words per minute.
According to research, one reason why children were (and still are) so captivated by Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood could be that Rogers’ speech was the perfect pace for children ages 3 to 5 to process. The average adult prefers to listen to speech at a faster pace of 150 to 160 words per minute.
4. His sweater and sneakers are housed at Rollins.
Rogers famously wore zip-front cardigans that were knitted by his mother. A blue cardigan and a pair of sneakers are among Rollins’ most treasured archives. Another cardigan—a red one—is kept at the Smithsonian.
In 1991, Rogers donated his sweater and sneakers to Rollins. (Photo courtesy of Rollins College Archives & Special Collections)
5. He spent his winters in Winter Park, Florida, in a house near Rollins College.
As children, sisters Sara Patrick ’08 and Anne Patrick ’12 visited with Rogers in Winter Park, Florida. (Photo courtesy of Sara Patrick ’08) Rogers and his wife, Joanne Byrd Rogers ’50, enjoyed an escape from the cold winters of their hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to spend January in the sunny city of their alma mater—the place where they first met. Executive Assistant for Alumni Relations Sara Patrick ’08 remembers when she met Mister Rogers in her neighborhood. “Some of my favorite childhood memories are from the time my family and I spent with Fred and Joanne Rogers having afternoon teas and piano concerts,” Patrick says. “I was eight years old and it was just like having him step out of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and into my home.” To honor the Rogers family, the City of Winter Park erected a sign on the street that reads “It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood.”
A small sign marks a quiet street near Rollins College. (Photo by Scott Cook)
6. He weighed exactly 143 pounds for the last 30 years of his life.
According to Esquire, Rogers lived a healthy life and was disciplined in his daily routine. Writer Tom Junod explained that Rogers found beauty in his weight of 143 pounds because “the number 143 means ‘I love you.’ It takes one letter to say ‘I’ and four letters to say ‘love’ and three letters to say ‘you.’ One hundred and forty-three.”
7. Mr. McFeely was named after Rogers’ maternal grandfather who used to say “Freddy, I like you just the way you are.”
Several of the characters on Rogers' programs were named after his friends and family members.
Actor David Newell as Mr. McFeely with Rogers on the set of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. [source: Atlanta Intown]
8. His family foundation established the McFeely-Rogers Foundation Music Scholarship at Rollins College.
During Rita Bornstein’s ’04H presidency at Rollins in 1996, Rogers’ family foundation generously established an endowed scholarship which has already provided funding for more than 45 students.
Rogers' photo in The Tomokan, the College's yearbook, in 1951. (Photo courtesy of Rollins College Archives & Special Collections)