Lloyd Morrisett, the co-founder of the Sesame Workshop and the co-creator of Sesame Street, has passed away. Sesame Workshop confirmed Morrisett’s death in a statement posted on social media, though the organization did not release a cause of death. He turned 93.
“Sesame Workshop mourns the passing of our valued and beloved co-founder Lloyd N. Morrisett, Ph.D. who died at the age of 93, The statement from Sesame Workshop said. “Lloyd leaves an outsized and indelible legacy among generations of children around the world, with Sesame Street only the most visible tribute to a lifetime of good work and lasting impact.”
Born on November 2, 1929 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Morrisett moved to New York City with his family in 1933. After that, the Morrisetts would move to California where he would meet his future. Sesame co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney. Morrisett studied experimental psychology at Oberlin University in the early 1950s. Then, after a stint at UCLA’s graduate school, he received his Ph.D. from Yale in 1953.
In December 1965, Morrisett noticed something interesting about his daughter’s television habits. Morrisett observed her at 6:30 a.m. and noticed his 3-year-old daughter, Sarah, working on the test patterns playing for cartoons. “It struck me that there was something fascinating about television about Sarah,” he said Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street. “What does a child do while watching the station identification signal? What does this mean?” Morrisett, who served as vice president of the Carnegie Corporation, worked on ways to “enrich the preschool program, particularly to overcome the disadvantages poor and minority children experienced when they entered school .”
“The results indicated that you can teach children a lot before they go to school,” he said. “The kids who had such an advantage early on did better in the early school years.”
In 1968, Morrisett and Ganz founded the Children’s Television Workshop, which would later be renamed the Sesame Street Workshop, using the newly created National Educational Television, later renamed the Public Broadcasting Service or PBS, and a number of grants. The show aimed to “break the tyranny of America’s cycle of poverty if the emotional, social, health, nutritional and psychological needs of poor children could be met,” writes Michael Davis in Street gangand that’s exactly what happened. Launched on November 10, 1969, the show created a seismic moment on television, with aftershocks that are felt to this day.
From 1969 through 2010, Morrisett worked as a writer for more than 56 episodes. “Without Lloyd Morrisett there would be none Sesame Streetsaid Joan Ganz Cooney. “It was he who first came up with the idea of using television to teach preschoolers basic skills such as letters and numbers. He was a trusted partner and loyal friend to me for over fifty years, and he will be sorely missed.”
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