Fred Rogers received 43 honorary degrees from colleges and universities all over the United States. He accepted doctorates from 1973 until 2002, impacting thousands of graduates with his commencement speeches. The texts of most of the speeches are housed in the Fred Rogers Archive. In some cases, multiple drafts of a single speech are available to researchers.
The honorary degrees were so important to Fred that he kept all of the academic hoods that he wore during the ceremonies. In the Archive are two quilts made out of the hoods. Mrs. L.R. Lefever, a friend of Fred’s, started the original quilt in the 1970s. Another friend took over the quilt-making in the 1990s, leaving us with two brightly-colored quilts that are important documents in the Archive. The quilts show us when and where Fred received his honorary degrees.
Two degrees of note were from Dartmouth College in 2002 and Roanoke College in 2003. Dartmouth was especially profound because Fred had started his college career there. He was grateful to be honored by the school he had not graduated from due to his transfer to Rollins College.
The doctorate from Roanoke is interesting because the honorary degree was granted posthumously. Before his death in February 2003, Fred had agreed to deliver the commencement address and accept a degree. The 2003 commencement program from Roanoke reads “In recognition of Fred Rogers’ dedication to children and his contributions to our society, the Board of Trustees of Roanoke College posthumously confers upon him the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.”