Putting the Statue in Place and the Unveiling on November 5, 2009

The November 5th dedication of the “Tribute to Children” statue on Pittsburgh’s North Shore, marks Fred Rogers’ place in the history of the city where he spent most of his working life serving children and families. It’s a great honor to see his statue serving as a symbol of Pittsburgh as a family-friendly city – and as an inspiration to all of us to be responsive to the needs of children. As Fred Rogers said, “Although children's "outsides" may have changed, their inner needs have remained very much the same...children always need to know that they are loved and capable of loving. Anything that adults can do to help in this discovery will be our greatest gift to the future."

Below is a press release issued the day of the event

Several hundred friends and dignitaries joined Mrs. Joanne Rogers along with children from the southwestern Pennsylvania region as they gathered on Pittsburgh’s North Shore this morning for the unveiling and dedication of the world’s first public sculpture of the beloved American icon, Fred M. Rogers.

Known as “Tribute to Children,” the site featuring the new sculpture opens to the public today in a park on the riverfront near Pittsburgh Steelers’ Heinz Field. The bronze sculpture of children’s television pioneer Mister Rogers – created by internationally renowned sculptor Robert Berks – measures 10 feet, 10 inches in height and weighs more than 7,000 pounds.

In a seated position and tying his shoe, the embodiment of Fred Rogers faces the city skyline from where his “beautiful day in this neighborhood” message resonates internationally for more than four decades from the Pittsburgh studio of public television station WQED.

A fitting tribute to children everywhere, and following 20 months of site construction, this new destination for visitors was presented today to local authorities as a gift to the people of the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County in honor of children and celebrating the enduring values of Fred Rogers. The late Cordelia S. May donated the sculpture to Family Communications, the company created by Fred Rogers. Pittsburgh-based Colcom Foundation, which was founded by Mrs. May, provided funding for the site development as well as its perpetual maintenance.

Mrs. Joanne Rogers, City of Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and officials from Colcom Foundation and Family Communications attended this morning’s unveiling ceremony, accompanied by students from Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) magnet school who performed during the ceremony.

Six years in the making

The late Mrs. Cordelia S. May, a local philanthropist and humanitarian, commissioned Robert Berks to produce the bronze sculpture of her dear friend, Fred Rogers, following his death in 2003. “Robert Berks is an internationally-recognized artist whose sculptures were known and admired both by Mrs. May and Mr. Rogers,” according to Michael M. Strueber, director emeritus of the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art and a director of Colcom Foundation. “Berks’ public works cover a broad cross-section of human achievement as he created more than 300 portraits in bronze and more than a dozen monuments. His famous sculptures of President John F. Kennedy, Albert Einstein and Golda Meir are known throughout the world, and his choice to create the monument we dedicate today was highly appropriate since public art can do many things: inspire, unite, immortalize, commemorate and celebrate.”

Family Communications, the recipient of this gift, is donating the “Tribute to Children” site to the region under the auspices of the Sports & Exhibition Authority.

“Tribute to Children is an appropriate name for this beautiful space,” said Joanne Rogers, chair of Family Communications. “Fred would want today’s dedication not to be about him, but to focus on the importance of being a caring person and neighbor. Fred was very fond of Pittsburgh’s rivers as they represented a place to enjoy peaceful contemplation. We are so grateful to the late Mrs. May, Colcom Foundation, the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County for this very special tribute.”

“Along with Family Communications, we are pleased to honor children and Fred Rogers through this project,” added Timothy M. Inglis, president of Colcom Foundation. “’Tribute to Children’ also honors one of the last wishes of our founder, Mrs. May, who passed away in 2005. It was her vision to create a lasting tribute to Fred Rogers, overlooking the city he loved.”

A new destination

“Tribute to Children” features a walk around platform – measuring approximately 96 feet by 59 feet – and thoughtfully repurposes and engages the old Manchester Bridge pier that had been abandoned since 1970. The base of the platform is patterned from the studio floor in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood known asthe famed ‘Neighborhood of Make-Believe.’ The site was designed by Pittsburgh-based Astorino, an architectural firm.

From the landside, visitors enter “Tribute to Children” from the sidewalk across the street from Heinz Field and are able to walk around and through a ‘keyhole’ design in the bridge pier that features spectacular riverside views of the statue, the river and the city skyline.

The site will be open during the park’s regular daily hours and will not be open at night until November 20 when it will be lit for the first time during Pittsburgh’s annual Light Up Night festivities.

“Through this new attraction, Fred Rogers will be remembered for his philosophy and contributions to child development and for being such an important part of Pittsburgh’s history and its image as a great place to live and raise a family,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

“Fred Rogers was one of our region’s greatest innovators, and now we have a lasting reminder of his many contributions to our region,” added Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato. “On behalf of the 1.2 million people in Allegheny County, I thank the Rogers family for sharing Fred with us for so many years as he shaped countless young lives. I also want to thank Colcom Foundation and Family Communications for their commitment to this monument and for the vision of making this a unique destination for visitors.”

“This is a historic day for many of us who shared in the experience of Fred Rogers’ lifelong commitment to enhancing the lives of children,” said Bill Isler, president ofThe Fred Rogers Company. “We are thankful to the local tradesmen, authorities, and our team of architects for their efforts in creating a very special place. The generosity of the late Mrs. May and Colcom Foundation makes this gift to the region possible and even more special to the people from Pittsburgh and around the world who will visit this site each year.”

Trade unions that worked on this 20-month project include: Operating Engineers Local 66, Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 9, Construction General Laborers Local 373, Greater Pennsylvania Regional Council of Carpenters Locals 142 and 230, Cement Masons Local 526, Iron Workers Local 3, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 5, and Plumbers Local 27.