MCMINNVILLE, Ore. (KOIN) — With the highly anticipated movie, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” coming out soon, it’s interesting to know Mr. Rogers had a connection to Oregon.
Generations of children grew up with Fred Rogers on “Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood” from 1968 to 2001. He died of stomach cancer in 2003 but he’s coming back to life in the form of Tom Hanks in the new movie.
During a recent tour of the Linfield College archives, school officials discovered the beloved TV personality received an honorary degree in 1982.
“He probably had more impact on the lives of young people than almost any other human being in that period,” said Charlie Walker, who was president of the university at the time.
Rogers developed a relationship with Walker and his wife, Cherie, writing a few notes back and forth.
“So then I wrote the letter to Fred Rogers saying would you accept an honorary degree from Linfield — and he wrote back, ‘Yes,'” Walker said.
Taken by surprise, the Walkers helped host Rogers when he visited the campus.
“He looked like he was wearing his regular old sweater that he wore on the television show,” Walker said.
“We had two guests while we were at Linfield that made me speechless, and Mr. Rogers was one because I so admired him, I just didn’t know what to say,” Cherie said.
Pomp and Circumstance played as the commencement ceremony began.
“And as we got to the stage the seniors in mass, stood up and began to sing “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,’ his song, and I think he was sort of startled,”
Without hesitation, Rogers looked at all the Linfield graduates and said, “It is, it’s a beautiful day in our neighborhood here.”
“You know, it was a kind of a tear-jerker,” Charlie said.
The Walkers said it’s a graduation ceremony they’ll always cherish.
“The college never did give a lot of honorary degrees and still doesn’t, but I would have to lift that one as spectacular,” Walker said. “Spectacular not in drama, but in genuineness, good feeling and honesty.”
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