Thiel College Community Celebrates Connection to Mr. Rogers with Room Dedication

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Thiel College--the first school to award Fred Rogers an honorary degree--dedicates room in honor of Fred Rogers.

We celebrate the connection between Thiel College, Mister Rogers and the McFeely-Rogers Foundation. Mr. Rogers inspired us to be curious about the world and caring of our neighbors.

Thiel College leaders celebrated the College’s ongoing relationship with iconic children’s advocate and television host Fred Rogers with representatives of the McFeely-Rogers Foundation and about 15 preschoolers on Tuesday when they dedicated the Mister Fred Rogers Room in the James Pedas Communication Center.

“It is wonderful to have our young Pre-K students here to help us celebrate the visionary educator Fred Rogers H’69,” Thiel College President Susan Traverso, Ph.D., said. “We celebrate the connection between Thiel College, Mister Rogers and the McFeely-Rogers Foundation. Mr. Rogers inspired us to be curious about the world and caring of our neighbors.”

More than 50 people including students from Thiel College’s campus preschool program attended the dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony.

“It’s a beautiful day at Thiel College,” Executive Director of the McFeely-Rogers Foundation James Okonak said.

Students use the collaborative space in the state-of-the-art Pedas Center as a study or meeting room. Since the addition of the Mr. Rogers images, it has become a popular spot for student meetings, school officials said during the dedication. Images of Mr. Rogers cover the walls and windows of the room. The space includes important career highlights including snippets from his speech “Encouraging Creativity” which he delivered during his honorary degree ceremony at Thiel College in 1969. About a year-and-a-half after the debut of his television program, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, Thiel College awarded him his first honorary degree. More than 40 institutions of higher learning followed suit.

“Thiel College recognized his greatness early,” said Thiel College Trustee Emeritus James McHugh ’62, H’02. McHugh is from Mr. Rogers hometown of Latrobe, Pa. and was a friend of Rogers.

According to the Fred Rogers Archive, “Encouraging Creativity” was so popular that to meet the requests for it, they had copies printed in advance for immediate distribution. In his address, he admonished educators and society in general for forcing conformity on children and encouraged understanding and tolerance as children endeavored to find their gifts.

After receiving his honorary doctorate from Thiel College, Mr. Rogers created a scholarship for Westmoreland County students at the College. Katie McKeever ’22, a first-year psychology major from Irwin, Pa., is a scholarship recipient and was one of the students participating in the ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday.

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Dominick DiRienzo
Thiel College
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