Rollins Honors Fred Rogers with Special Birthday Celebration

March 22, 2008

More Than 300 Sweaters Collected in Honor of Fred Rogers' Birthday

Sweater Drive

More than 300 sweaters were collected by local schools in honor of Fred Rogers for donation to the Orlando Union Rescue Mission. Pictured here: Lake Orienta Elementary student Lena Hatter (front/center), and (from left to right) Alyssa Varga and Chase DenBeste from Winter Park High School, Orlando Rescue Union Mission Development Director Laurie Fewless, Rollins President Lewis Duncan, Rollins Child Development Center Director Sharon Carnahan and Orlando Union Rescue Mission Board Member Joan Clayton.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer showed his support of “Won’t You Wear a Sweater?" Day. 

The Rollins community helped celebrate what would have been Fred Rogers '51 80th birthday. Known for creating Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Rogers graduated from Rollins in 1951. During the special birthday celebration at the Rollins Child Development Center (CDC), students from Winter Park High and Lake Orienta Elementary presented the Orlando Union Rescue Mission with more than 250 sweaters that they collected. Jackson Heights Middle School and St.Margaret Mary Catholic School also participated in the sweater drive.

"This could not have come at a better time," said Laurie Fewless, Orlando Union Rescue Mission development director. "We are preparing for an Easter banquet for more than 1,200 people, so these will immediately be put to good use. We truly appreciate the efforts of Rollins College. Community partnerships such as these allow us to reach out to those less fortunate." 

Won't You Be My Neighbor?In celebration of the 80th anniversary of Rogers' birthday, members of the Rollins community wore sweaters and remembered some of the lessons Rogers taught. "His messages are as meaningful to adults as they are to children, and remain as significant today as they were 40 years ago when Mister Rogers' Neighborhood first aired," said Rollins President Lewis Duncan. "He told us that there are many ways to be a caring neighbor-advice that we at Rollins try to practice individually and through our community engagement programs. These experiences teach us that, as Mister Rogers also told us, 'We can all learn from one another.'"

During the birthday celebration, children from the Child Development Center enjoyed the new playground, which was made possible thanks to the generosity of Joanne Rogers: Fred's wife, a Rollins trustee, and also a Rollins graduate.

To honor Fred's memory and his lifelong commitment to service, Rollins students proclaimed Thursday, March 20 "Fred Rogers Day at Rollins College." Family Communications, Inc. (producer of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood) named March 20 "Won't You Wear A Sweater?" Day. People across the U.S. were asked to wear a sweater that day and think about being a caring neighbor. View the YouTube video.

Life Is For ServiceWhile a student at Rollins College in the '50s, Fred Rogers was inspired by the words "Life is For Service." These words are inscribed in marble in a breezeway on campus. Fred carried a picture of the plaque in his wallet until it was later framed and the picture frame sat on his desk for years.

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor: What We Can Continue to Learn from Fred Rogers”

Rollins welcomed a special visitor to its neighborhood—Hedda Sharapan, associate producer of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Hedda worked with Fred Rogers for 37 years until his death in February 2003. Today, she travels across the U.S. sharing his timeless lessons of being a good neighbor. More than 100 people attended the talk on “Won’t You Be My Neighbor: What We Can Continue to Learn from Fred Rogers.” The Rollins College Child Development & Student Research Center hosted the public event.

Sweater Drive
(Left to right) – Mister Rogers Neighborhood Associate Producer Hedda Sharapan, Joanne Rogers (Class of 1950), Orlando Rescue Mission Board Member Joan Clayton and Orlando Rescue Mission Director of Public Relations LeeDawn Carpenter

“I am so honored to be here,” said Sharapan. “Back in Pittsburgh, Rollins has a special meaning for us. It is truly ‘hallowed’ ground because it’s where Fred walked and where he met his wife, Joanne.” Rogers graduated from Rollins in 1951 and went on to create Mister Rogers Neighborhood, the longest running television show on public television.

The talk, complete with treasured video clips and an outtake, evoked a range of emotions bringing tears to many and laughter to all. Rogers wrote more than 900 scripts for the show, 200 songs as well as 13 children’s operas. During the talk, Sharapan highlighted some of the many lessons that Fred taught.

• There’s only one person in the whole world just like you.
• We are much more the same than we are different.
• There are many ways to be a caring neighbor.
• We can all learn from one another.
• What is essential is invisible to the eyes.
• In communicating, the most important thing is to listen.
• There isn’t anyone you wouldn’t love if you didn’t know their story.
• Be a good listener.

Fred Rogers

"You make each day a special day by just your being you."
- Fred Rogers

February 27, the day of the talk, actually marked the five-year anniversary of Fred Rogers death. “Today, we don’t celebrate death, we celebrate Fred’s life and his work,” said Sharapan. March 20 would have been Rogers’ 80th birthday. In his honor, people across the U.S. are asked to wear a sweater that day and think about being a caring neighbor.

In conjunction with Hedda Sharapan’s talk, Rollins College student organization Communique (the campus student chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association), helped organize a sweater drive. More than 100 sweaters were collected and donated to the Orlando Rescue Mission.

Sharapan plans to continue to take Fred’s work out of the television and into peoples’ lives. For more information about Family Communications, Inc., the company that produced Mister Rogers Neighborhood, visit

Rollins Welcomes Associate Producer from Mister Rogers Neighborhood

The Rollins College Child Development Center presented “Won’t You Be My Neighbor: What We Can Continue to Learn from Fred Rogers.” Presented by Hedda Sharapan, associate producer with Family Communications, Inc., (producer of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood), she used treasured video segments, behind-the-scenes stories and even an outtake to share Fred Rogers’ views on how to be a caring neighbor. Joanne Rogers, wife of the late Fred Rogers, and Sharapan signed books following the event.

Fred Rogers graduated from Rollins in 1951 and is the College’s most famous alumnus. Known for creating and producing Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred spent his life helping people appreciate what it means to be a caring neighbor. Now, his former colleague, Sharapan travels the country helping to carry on his legacy.

The talk was held in the SunTrust Auditorium in the Crummer Graduate School of Business Wednesday, February 27 at 7 p.m.

Sweater Drive in Honor of Mister Rogers

Fred Rogers’ cardigan sweater came to represent the gentle spirit and warmth of the man himself. To celebrate the legacy of Fred Rogers and to promote Sharapan’s appearance, sweaters were collected throughout the month of February and  donated to the Orlando Rescue Mission.

New and gently used sweaters were dropped off at various locations at Rollins or at the Winter Park Public Library.

On Saturday, March 1, the College hosted “The Good Neighbor Conference” for local pre-school teachers. 

Copyright © 2012 Rollins College, 1000 Holt Ave., Winter Park, FL 32789  407.646.2000

News Archives: