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A small liberal arts college in central Florida just took a big step to ensuring the legacy of Fred Rogers can still inspire people for decades to come.
Since its founding in 1885, Rollins College has seen countless students roam its grounds in Winter Park, but none more cherished than TV‘s Mister Rogers, who earned his degree from the school in 1951. The institution recently unveiled a massive monument to whom it calls its “most beloved alumnus” and the statue pays a beautiful tribute to what he was all about.
On Oct. 28, Rollins College held a ceremony revealing the bronze sculpture, which was crafted by renowned British sculptor Paul Day. The piece is called “A Beautiful Day for a Neighbor” and weighs in at more than 3,000 pounds and towers over many viewers at more than 7 feet tall, according to the school.
Day was among the many people who attended the unveiling, which also included John Rogers, the late TV icon’s son. He spoke at the event about how the school was responsible for his parents meeting, as Joanne Rogers was actually a student at Rollins before his father transferred there in 1948.
As you’d expect, the ceremony was full of musical performances honoring Rogers’ memory, including an original piece that was composed by his nephew, Dan Crozier. Crozier works as a professor in the music department at Rollins, showing that the institution’s ties to Rogers are still alive.
The sculpture itself presents a richly detailed tribute to Rogers all the way around. From the front, it shows him seated with a group of children around him, listening intently. He’s shown in his signature cardigan sweater and sneakers and has one of his most beloved puppets on his hand, Daniel Striped Tiger. That character has also kept the host’s legacy alive for recent generations of kids by inspiring the PBS Kids series “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.”
But when you look behind the sculpture, fans of his work will be awed by the details that bring to mind other cherished bits from his long-running series, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
It reveals many more of the puppet figures Rogers created for his Neighborhood of Make-Believe, including King Friday XIII, Queen Sara Saturday and X the Owl. Around the base of the sculpture, the Neighborhood Trolley and lyrics from the show’s theme song, which was written by Rogers, are etched.
It’s not the first time Rogers has been immortalized in statue form. The TV host, whose career was based in Pittsburgh, was honored in that city with a nearly 11-foot bronze sculpture in 2009. Rogers died in 2003 but clearly his memory isn’t in danger of fading away any time soon.