LATROBE, PA – Saint Vincent College, the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media and the Latrobe Art Center are teaming up to launch “Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Again?,” a community programming series based upon the life and legacy of Fred Rogers.
The programming aims to increase public access and awareness of the important cultural and intellectual legacy of one of the most beloved American spokespersons for children and humanity and will explore the resources of the Fred Rogers Archive, the history of Latrobe and local programming in the Latrobe community.
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Again?” will be supported by a “Humanities Research for the Public Good” grant from The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC). This grant program is a national incentive to promote student research and public engagement at private colleges while showcasing the archival, library and museum collections held by these institutions. Saint Vincent College is one of just 24 institutions from across the U.S. to be awarded the CIC grant, which is generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
“We want to tell the story of how a small town helped shape the man who would become America’s favorite neighbor,” said Dr. Dana Winters, Rita McGinley Chair of Early Learning and Children’s Media, director of academic programs at the Fred Rogers Center and director of the “Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Again?” series. “Latrobe has always held a deep connection to and a strong sense of pride in Fred Rogers.
“But the question this project will help answer is how the man who would influence generations of children was himself influenced by a town he called the neighborhood, and, more importantly, how the small town of Latrobe – and many small towns like it across the country – can continue to help children and families thrive in a culture of kindness, compassion, humanities and arts.”
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Again?” will be a series of four community events, slated to begin in February 2022, that will combine the research of Saint Vincent College students, the history of Fred Rogers, the city of Latrobe and the outreach of the Latrobe Art Center. Each event will include a student presentation on the chosen theme based on research in the Fred Rogers Archive, an exhibit of materials from the Archive and public activity related to the theme of the event. With the ongoing limitations and restrictions of in-person activities due to the pandemic, each of these community sharing events will include a virtual experience, while the exhibit for each event will be displayed in the Latrobe Art Center for one week.
Located on the Saint Vincent College campus, The Fred Rogers Center is the single most authoritative resource for studying Rogers’ legacy. It is home to the Fred Rogers Archive, which contains more than 20,000 items related to Rogers’ life and work, including photography, original scripts and production books, handwritten correspondence, awards, citations and viewer mail. Undergraduate students, graduate students, researchers and the local community often utilize the Archive to study Rogers’ life and legacy.
Academically, the Center is an important leader in the field of children’s media and education. Winters and her staff and students have traveled around the globe to educate on Rogers’ legacy, children’s development and how children, youth and families can be supported through community work. The Center has formed past and present partnerships with national organizations like New America Foundation and Common Sense Media and regularly collaborates with world-class research institutions such as Harvard Graduate School of Education and the University of Pittsburgh.
Saint Vincent College students are afforded numerous opportunities through the Center to learn about Rogers’ legacy and how it applies in their lives, while creating and developing new projects that serve children and their helpers. SVC students engage with the Fred Rogers Center through three major programs – The Fred Rogers Scholars, Incubator 143 and the College’s children’s studies minor.
The Fred Rogers Scholars program is a merit-based program that includes research and service opportunities through the Center. Students engage in independent and group research within the Fred Rogers Archive, under the supervision of Winters and archivist Emily Uhrin.
The Incubator 143 Research Lab is an undergraduate research and development group focused on creating positive change for children’s development. By integrating developmental and behavioral science, communication and design, and social change theory, Incubator 143 supports the important work of children’s helpers.
Saint Vincent College students in both the Fred Rogers Scholars and the Incubator 143 Research Lab come from a wide range of academic disciplines, including education, psychology, communication, history, music, design, theology and psychology. They will serve as the primary researchers and developers for “Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Again?”
The Saint Vincent College/Fred Rogers Center project is one of 24 from across the U.S. that will be funded by the CIC’s “Humanities Research for the Public Good” grant program, led by Anne M. Valk, historian and executive director of the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning at the CUNY Graduate Center. These grants will be used to support a year-long undergraduate research project that draws on institutional collections to address a topic of interest to the local community. Participants were selected through a rigorous application process.
“I was impressed by the good work that faculty and staff are already doing to support community engagement and humanities research,” stated Valk. “So many independent colleges are committed to public-facing scholarship and exploring the hidden potential of their collections.”
Additional information on the “Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Again?” series, including the planned topics of discussion and dates of its events, will be released when finalized.
PHOTO 1: The Fred Rogers Exhibit inside the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College.
PHOTO 2: Dr. Dana Winters