Please join City Books and Mt. Lebanon Library on Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 7 PM when we welcome Maxwell King, author of The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers.
“The man who conveyed a Zen-like calm on television saw a psychiatrist for decades.” So writes Pittsburgh-based Maxwell King at one of many points in which he emphasizes that the beloved star of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a sometimes-contradictory fellow.
Fred Rogers (1928-2003) was no saint, given to occasional outbursts of anger and not above a little deception in order to get out of sticky situations, as when he tried to separate himself from a company he effectively owned during a strike. Raised in the hardscrabble Rust Belt, Rogers escaped, going to work as a floor manager in the early days of TV and making a mark with the 1951 production of Amahl and the Night Visitors, “a high point in NBC’s creative period.” He could have followed a path to an executive role with the network, but he returned to Pittsburgh and pioneered a different kind of TV aimed at children—different because, King writes, it actually respected its audience.
Rogers was an emphatic and empathetic Christian who wanted to impart those values to his audience, but by the author’s account, he saw the world—or at least the show he built—with the eyes of a child and insisted that those who worked for him do the same. As a former producer noted, whenever anyone was reading aloud onscreen, the camera showed the words and tracked from left to right to mimic the path of the eyes in reading: “All those little tiny details were really important to Fred.”
Maxwell King’s four-decade career includes the presidencies of two of the country’s largest philanthropies and the editorship of one of its most influential daily newspapers.
King joined The Pittsburgh Foundation in 2014 as president and CEO. His strong advocacy for including vulnerable groups – at least 30 percent of the region’s population – in the benefit streams of a resurgent Pittsburgh anchors a signature organizing principle, 100 Percent Pittsburgh. In addition, King is expanding the Foundation’s investment in its Center for Philanthropy, which combines the charitable passions of donors with expert program staff and grantees to improve lives in the Pittsburgh region.
Before that, King served for two years as director of the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Westmoreland County. As president of the Pittsburgh-based Heinz Endowments from 1999 to 2008, he led the disbursement of about $500 million in grants to projects, organizations and initiatives primarily in western Pennsylvania. From 1990 to 1998, King was editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer. During that period, the Inquirer was recognized by Time magazine as one of the five best newspapers in America.
King has served on boards and committees for many national and regional organizations, including the national Council on Foundations which he led as the first chair of its Ethics and Practices Committee and then as chair of the full board from 2006 to 2008.