Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning
and Children’s Media
by Karen Fetter
In the Pittsburgh area, who doesn’t remember tuning into Channel 13 or PBS for an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood? If, like us, you and your children spent countless hours enjoying “a beautiful day in the neighborhood,” then you’ll be excited to learn that Saint Vincent College is building on Fred Rogers’ legacy with the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media.
According to Don Orlando, Public Relations Director for Saint Vincent College, people of any age can enjoy what the Fred Rogers Center has to offer. The ultramodern $14 million building has two-stories and occupies 36,500 square feet. In addition to the Center, the building also houses the Fred Rogers Archive, an Interactive Exhibit about Fred Rogers’ life and work, the Foster and Muriel McCarl Coverlet Gallery, the Conference Center at Saint Vincent College, and WIM — the upside down mural by Roman Verostko.
The Center was first established in 2003 as a resource for children and families to continue early learning through the media, something that Fred Rogers always had a vision for and which guided his life’s work. Rogers recognized more than 50 years ago how great the potential of television could be for educating young children in ways that support their social and emotional development. Today, these concepts are more important than ever in an age when children are exposed to cable and satellite television, videos, computers, interactive games, talking books, and other media.
The Fred Rogers Exhibit
Fred himself began working with Saint Vincent in 2000. He collaborated with leaders from the college and a team of nationally recognized advisors. He also invited two colleagues – Milton Chen, Ph.D., Executive Director of The George Lucas Educational Foundation, and Ellen Galinsky, President of Families and Work Institute, to write planning papers that began to set the agenda for the Rogers Center. Despite Fred’s death in February 2003, the plans continued on to complete and open the Center in October 2008.
According to Orlando, the Fred Rogers Exhibit is the centerpiece of the building. The interactive exhibit pays tribute to Fred Rogers’ contributions to early learning and children’s media while also providing “teachable moments” for adults and children. Displays featuring Fred’s sweaters, tennis shoes, puppets and other artifacts are part of the exhibit. The Archive preserves the work of Fred Rogers while providing guidance and direction to inspire the next pioneers in early learning and children’s media.
The collection that represents Fred Rogers’ life and work includes physical and digital versions of a wide range of materials that includes video of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, The Children’s Corner, and other programs produced by Fred Rogers; musical scores for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and other programs; recordings of Fred Rogers’ music; manuscripts of speeches, articles and other writings; audiotapes; and photographs and other artifacts.
Conference Facility at Saint Vincent College
Additionally, the Fred Rogers Center also can be used as a conference facility. Groups of all sizes can be accommodated in a large banquet room with theater seating for up to 450 or 250 for dinner, spacious meeting rooms and several small meetings. All spaces offer flexible set-up options and functionality. There is also wireless internet access and all rooms are equipped with the most recent digital projection technology to meet divergent conferencing needs. A business center is also available for those who wish to send faxes, make phone calls or print documents and reports. For information, contact Event and Conference Services at Saint Vincent College 724-532-5030.
Facebook, YouTube, and Social Media
The Center has taken advantage of the rise of the Internet and online Social Media, including a website, Facebook, and YouTube. These e-marketing concepts are from work between the Fred Rogers Center and the Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics, and Government at Saint Vincent College.
“We are hoping to use the power of today’s digital technology and web-based networking to develop the Fred Rogers Center community in much the same way Fred himself used Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and the cutting-edge technology of his day – television – to build relationships with children and families,” explained Fred Rogers Center Executive Director Rita Catalano.
Designing and Building the Fred Rogers Center
Aside from what the Center has to offer on the inside, it has a lot to offer on the outside as well, in terms of its remarkable construction and architecture. The building was designed by Kevin Gannon and architects from FortyEight Architecture (formerly DGGP) of Pittsburgh, following a national design competition. The general contractor was Massaro Corporation of Pittsburgh.
Don Orlando explained that the building is considered “green” and has recieved LEED Gold certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). This certification proves that the building is sustainable through its design, placement and orientation, water conservation, use of natural lighting, energy efficiency, use of recycled materials, and durability.
One very special touch was the use of 100-year-old black walnut that was harvested by the Benedictine Monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey. The wood was stored in the basement of Saint Vincent Basilica and was used for most of the woodwork throughout the Center.
With the assistance of O.B. Milling in Apollo, the boards were planed smooth and formed into the shapes that were needed for doorframes, stair treads, stair rails, baseboards, and walnut cladding. Manor House furnished it to the construction site for the carpenters from Massaro who did the final installation.
“We are very happy with the design and construction of the building, especially the unique woodwork throughout the public areas of the conference center,” Archabbot Douglas Nowicki O.S.B. concluded, “and are happy to hear that people like the building that honors Latrobe native Fred Rogers.”
If you or someone you know is a fan of Fred Rogers and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, take the time to stop by and visit the Fred Rogers Center on the Saint Vincent College campus. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Admission is free and you surely will not be disappointed.
For further information about how to support the Fred Rogers Center please visit: www.FredRogersCenter.org, or call 724-805-2750.
For information on The Conference Center at Saint Vincent College Visit: www.stvincent.edu/events/the-conference-center8, or call 724-532-5030.
For Information on Saint Vincent College Visit: www.stvincent.edu, or call