LATROBE, Pa. (AP) — Cellist Yo-Yo Ma will receive the first Fred Rogers Legacy Award, which is named for the creator and late host of the television show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
Ma became friends with Rogers after twice being a guest on Rogers’ Public Broadcasting Service show, and Rogers’ widow, Joanne, a concert pianist, chose Ma for the inaugural award.
Joanne Rogers is honorary chairwoman of the advisory board at the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at St. Vincent College near Latrobe, Rogers’ hometown, which is about 40 miles east of Pittsburgh.
The award will celebrate the center’s 10th anniversary. It was established after Rogers died of stomach cancer in February 2003 at age 74.
Karen Strubel Myers, the center’s director of development, said the award recognizes meritorious and charitable work. It will not necessarily be awarded annually.
Ma is being honored, among other reasons, for his Silk Road Project, which promotes cultural and artistic studies linked to the Asian trade route of the same name.
“We really wanted to focus on elements of service that pay forward Fred Rogers’ legacy,” Myers said.
Junlei Li, a visiting professor at the Rogers Center, cited Ma’s work with the project he founded in 1998.
“He’s used all those skills to serve,” Li said. “We’re thrilled the connection between him and Fred Rogers continues.”
Ma, a 15-time Grammy winner and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, will give a recital after accepting the award May 23 at a ceremony in the St. Vincent Basilica.
Tickets for a reception, ceremony and recital are $150. The money will benefit the Rogers Center, a related fellowship program, and the Fred Rogers Scholars Program, which helps St. Vincent students pursue careers in early learning and children’s media.