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Fred Rogers Company Executive to Address SVC Commencement Dec. 14

Public Relations
Posted: Monday Nov 25, 2013

Nov. 25, 2013

One hundred and twenty-one students – 59 undergraduates and 62 graduates – who completed requirements in August or December will receive their degrees at the ninth annual December commencement ceremony of Saint Vincent College at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec.14 in the gymnasium of the Robert S. Carey Student Center. Principal speaker will be Hedda Sharapan, director of early childhood initiatives for The Fred Rogers Company, who will also be honored with the conferral of an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

The commencement ceremony will be preceded by a Baccalaureate Mass at 9:30 a.m. in the Mary, Mother of Wisdom Student Chapel and followed by a reception in the Robert S. Carey Student Center lounge. The Rt. Rev. Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B., archabbot and chancellor, will preside. He and Br. Norman W. Hipps, O.S.B., president, will award the honorary degree and the student degrees. Graduates will be presented by Dr. John J. Smetanka, vice president for academic affairs and academic dean.

As a close friend, co-worker and co-author with Fred Rogers, Sharapan embodies Rogers’ philosophy of putting children first and focusing on both their emotional and intellectual development. Her work with Rogers has touched millions of children, parents and educators. Her continued work with The Fred Rogers Company reaches early childhood educators to share what we all can learn from Rogers.

She has spoken at hundreds of early childhood conferences. Example titles of recent presentations at conferences include “STEM/STEAM – What we can continue to learn from Fred Rogers”, “It’s Good to Be Curious” and “Approaching growing readers and writers from infancy to pre-school.” In describing how Rogers taught, she says “rather than focus on academics, Fred was more interested in helping children develop the tools they’ll need for success in school and in life: persistence, curiosity, getting along with others, self-control and self-regulation.”

Sharapan continues and extends the work she and Rogers started 47 years ago. This includes work she has done in collaboration with Dr. Veronica Ent and other members of the Saint Vincent Department of Education in developing modules for inclusion in courses for early childhood educators that incorporate the Rogers lesson plan.

Sharapan is recognized as a legend in the early learning field and was awarded the lifetime achievement award by the National Family Child Care Conference. In her work, Sharapan, like Rogers, enlivens the virtues and values that are held by an institution: the importance of each individual, a commitment to excellent work and an approach to life and learning that is compassionate, balanced and wholistic.

The granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor and the daughter of European immigrants who grew up in Pittsburgh, Sharapan began work at The Fred Rogers Company in 1966. She worked closely with Rogers throughout his television career and co-authored a number of books for children and parents. She also authored a variety of professional development materials for early childhood educators. She served as assistant director, associate producer and played Mrs. Frog on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Today, Sharapan consults on new PBS series, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Working to extend Rogers’ legacy, she is a frequent presenter at national and international conferences on early childhood education. She serves as the director of early childhood initiatives and associate director of public relations at The Fred Rogers Company. She is responsible for communicating Rogers’ philosophy in multiple ways: developing workshops for early childhood educators; working on books, articles and brochures for parents, families and professionals; and speaking around the country to educators, parents, religious, business and community groups. She is the mother of two daughters.

She earned a master of science degree in child development from the University of Pittsburgh and a bachelor of science degree in psychology from Carnegie Mellon University.

She received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011 from the National Family Child Care Conference in recognition of years of dedicated service to family child care.

The author or co-author of eight books and numerous professional development activities, newsletters and blog entries, her professional development newsletter is sent monthly to more than 10,000 subscribers.

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Photo: Hedda Sharapan 

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PR2013-606