Spend a beautiful day in 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood' at Rollins College

Rollins College offers walking tours honoring famous 1951 graduate

WINTER PARK, Fla. – It's been a while since you've been able to spend a beautiful day in the neighborhood with Mister Rogers but this month, you can.

As people walk around the historic Rollins College campus in Winter Park, they'll see signs guiding them through the Mister Rogers Walking Tour.

It's all part of a tour the college has set up for the month of March to see places around campus that signify or pay homage to Fred Rogers, the 1951 graduate who went on to become a TV legend.

"He was the real deal," said Dr. John Sinclair, a professor who was also a close friend of Rogers'. "So, so thoughtful and so exactly like you know Mister Rogers on TV." 

[PHOTOS: Rollins College walking tour honors famous 1951 graduate Mister Rogers]

Sinclair became friends with Rogers in his later years, enjoying countless meals and memories together. As part of the walking tour, Sinclair took News 6 to places Rogers had once taken him.

"This sweater is one of the ones that he wore on the show and his sweaters were knitted by his mother," Sinclair said, while pointing to a blue cardigan and dark blue tennis shoes in a glass casing inside the Cornell Fine Arts Museum on campus.

According to Rollins College, Fred Rogers majored in music and music composition, and graduated from Rollins in 1951. It's where he also met his wife, Joanne, a fellow music student. Rollins records show he was a member of the Community Service Club, the Student Music Guild and sang in the chapel and Bach choirs.

"This was his second home," Sinclair said while standing by a portrait of Mister Rogers painted by a local artist in the music building. 

It is in that building, just around the corner and down the hallway, where Dr. Daniel Crozier now teaches. Crozier is not only a professor of music composition -- he's Mister Rogers' nephew. 

"I came here because I have so many family members that graduated from here and he is a very famous family member," Crozier said. "I am a composer and I would show him what I was writing from the very earliest years. I would show him everything I wrote."

He then showed his students how Mister Rogers taught him to play the famous song, "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood" -- the opening to "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," which debuted on TV in 1968. 

Students, some in tears, watched in awe for the minute-long performance. 

"It goes back such a long way that it's nostalgia for everyone," Crozier said. "We miss him, this college misses him and this college was really important to him."

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During the tour, Sinclair showed how Rollins inspired Rogers, by taking the group down a long, arched hallway in Strong Wall, stopping in front of a marble sign engraved with four small words that impacted the large legend: "Life is for service."

"He said, 'Every day I walked by a sign,''' Sinclair said as he thought back to his private tour with Rogers. "He reached into his wallet and pulled out a picture he had of the sign. He said, 'That influenced my entire life because that's what life was really about.'" 

Sinclair was speechless in that moment. 

"I couldn't respond. I mean, how do you respond?" he asked. "We could use a Mister Rogers now."

The Mister Rogers Walking Tour is free for the public through March 31. For hours of operation and other information about the tour, click here

If you can't make it to campus, click here for a virtual tour