Heard on Campus: Life and work of Fred Rogers recounted at Penn State Forum

December 04, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Maxwell King, author of “The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers,” presented a talk about the life and impact of the legendary children’s television host at the Penn State Forum luncheon held Dec. 4 at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center.

“Fred Rogers, more than anybody, was the person who taught America about the importance of early childhood education,” said King, a former journalist who spent eight years as editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “He ended up playing not just an important role in television and music and creativity, but a really important role in the field of education by popularizing with a huge audience the understanding of early childhood education and its importance.”

Drawing on original interviews, oral histories and archival documents, King’s work in “The Good Neighbor” traces Rogers’ personal, professional and artistic life through decades of work as the creator and host of the PBS series “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” From childhood stories and relationships with his family to the role religion played in his work, his close collaboration with leading childhood development experts, and his attempt to make television for adults, “The Good Neighbor” tells the story of one of television’s most enduring personalities.

“Fred Rogers could be an extraordinarily stubborn, determined person,” said King, the outgoing president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Foundation who also served as president of the Pittsburgh-based Heinz Endowments for nearly a decade. “The staff that worked with him loved him. They felt that he was wonderful to them and gave them the chance to do their very best work, but they did think that he was extremely stubborn. And, of course, Fred was stubborn because he had a very clear vision of what he wanted to create, and he had a very clear idea of how to do it in the most effective, most excellent way, and he would not give up on it.”

King also talked about Rogers’ role as an exemplar of the most important human values through the lessons taught on his show.

“For Rogers, they were Christian values,” he said. “He was raised in the Presbyterian church and became a Presbyterian minister. But he understood that they weren’t just Christian values, that these were universal human values like respect, integrity, fairness, compassion and kindness. These are universal human values that show up in cultures and philosophies throughout history around the world.”

The next Penn State Forum will feature 2019-20 Penn State Laureate William Doan. Doan, who is a professor of theatre in the College of Arts and Architecture and artist-in-residence in the College of Nursing, will present “The Anxiety Project: An Artist’s Look at Mental Health and Wellness” on Feb. 17, 2020, in President’s Hall of the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center.

Modeled after the National Press Club, the Penn State Forum includes lunch, followed by remarks from a distinguished speaker. After the presentation, a facilitator poses questions submitted by members of the audience to the speaker. Together, the speaker and audience have an opportunity to explore some of the most pertinent issues facing higher education and society today.

The Penn State Forum Speaker Series is open to the public. Tickets are $25 and include a buffet lunch. Tickets may be purchased through the Penn State id+ Office, located at 20 HUB-Robeson Center. For questions, call 814-865-7590 or email idcard@psu.edu. For more information and a complete list of speakers, visit http://sites.psu.edu/forum.  

Last Updated December 04, 2019