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"It is a beautiful day in this neighborhood," said Fred McFeely Rogers, better known as Mister Rogers, the host of PBS' "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," to 2,100 Old Dominion University graduates during the spring commencement ceremony May 6 at Foreman Field.

"You know you don't have to do anything sensational in order to love or be loved," Rogers told the graduates, who welcomed him with a standing ovation. "We will all discover sooner or later that what is essential has little to do with IQ's or fame. What ultimately nourishes us is knowing we can be trusted; that the foundation of our being is good stuff."

For more than three decades, Rogers has entered the front door of his made-for-television home, shedding his coat and loafers for his cardigan sweater and sneakers to begin his still-popular television show.

Each week, more than 8 million households tune in to "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," the longest-running children's show on PBS and one of the longest-running shows of any kind on television. Started in 1966, "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" has been nominated for 26 Emmys and has received two.

Rogers is not only the show's host, but also its executive producer, writer, composer and chief puppeteer. An ordained Presbyterian minister, he holds a bachelor's degree in music composition and a master's in child development. He has earned every major award in the television industry, including two George Foster Peabody Awards.

Born in Latrobe, Pa., in 1928, Rogers is the author of 20 books, part of his First Experiences series for children.

"Take good care of that part of you where your best dreams come from," he told the graduates. "Do your best to appreciate the gifts we really are. Look for every opportunity that allows you to clap and cheer. Loving your neighbors as yourself, that's what really counts."

Rogers received a doctor of humane letters degree, along with Robert J. O'Neill Jr., who received a doctor of laws degree from Old Dominion. O'Neill is president of the National Academy of Public Administration, a nonprofit organization chartered by Congress to improve governance at the local, regional, state, national and international levels. A 1973 graduate of Old Dominion, O'Neill worked his way from management intern to city manager for the city of Hampton, and also served a term on Old Dominion's Board of Visitors.

This article was posted on: May 6, 2000

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