Sesame Street co-creator Lloyd N. Morrisett has died at 93

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There disappearance of Lloyd Morrisett, born in 1929 in Oklahoma City, was heralded by Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization that the artist helped found under the name Children’s Television Workshop. A cause of death has not been confirmed.

Initially Morrisett trained to be a teacher following a course of study in Psychology, then he became an experimental educator. His goal has always been to find new ways to educate children from disadvantaged backgrounds through his work at the Carnegie Corporation, a philanthropic foundation active in education.

The genesis of Sesame Street

While at Carnegie Corporation, Morrisett collaborated with public television producer Joan Ganz Cooney to create the Children’s Television Workshop, with the idea to create educational programs for children. The first show of him was right Sesame StreetNovember 1969: By the end of the first season, the show reached more than half of the 12 million US children ages 3 to 5. Sesame Street is now the largest source of informal education in the world: it reaches millions of children in more than 140 countries every year, and has won nearly 200 Emmys.

The inspiration for this project came to Morrisett one morning in 1965. Waking up early, he saw his three-year-old daughter entranced in front of a TV commercial, as he waited for the cartoons to start.

TV to educate children

Morrisett got the idea that the television could teach children more. Cooney spent months traveling around the United States, interviewing teachers, child psychologists, development experts and television producers for a study called The Potential Uses of Television in Preschool Education. At the time, half of the nation’s school districts did not have day care centers, yet “many families had more televisions than bathtubs, telephones, vacuum cleaners, toasters or any other appliance.” These are the words Cooney wrote in commenting on the research funded by the Carnegie Corporation, where Morrisett worked at the time.

Lloyd Morrisett’s determination

Morrisett convinced his superiors at Carnegie to invest $1 million in Sesame Street and raised an additional $4 million from the U.S. Office of Education and $1.5 million from the Ford Foundation. As commercial broadcasters refused to air the show commercial-free, Morrisett turned to the public television stations that would soon become the Public Broadcasting Services. Meanwhile, Cooney assembled the show’s creative team which included young Muppets mastermind Jim Henson. The rest is history.

Morrisett served as president of Sesame Workshop from 1970 to 2000. In 2019, he attended the Kennedy Awards with Cooney: Sesame Street it was the first television show to win the accolade.