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Lloyd Morrisett, who helped launch ‘Sesame Street,’ dies
NEW YORK (AP) — Lloyd Morrisett, the co-creator of the beloved children’s education TV series “Sesame Street,” which uses empathy and fuzzy monsters like Abby Cadabby, Elmo and Cookie Monster to charm and teach generations around the world, has died. He was 93.
Morrisett’s death was announced Tuesday by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit he helped establish under the name the Children’s Television Workshop. No cause of death was given.
In a statement, Sesame Workshop hailed Morrisett as a “wise, thoughtful, and above all kind leader” who was “constantly thinking about new ways” to educate.
Morrisett and Joan Ganz Cooney worked with Harvard University developmental psychologist Gerald Lesser to build the show’s unique approach to teaching that now reaches 120 million children. Legendary puppeteer Jim Henson supplied the critters.
“Sesame Street” is shown in more than 150 countries, has won 216 Emmys, 11 Grammys and in 2019 received the Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime artistic achievement, the first time a television program got the award (Big Bird strolled down the aisle and basically sat in Tom Hanks’ lap).
Born in 1929 in Oklahoma City, Morrisett initially trained to be a teacher with a background in psychology. He became an experimental educator, looking for new ways to educate children from less advantaged backgrounds. Morrisett received his bachelor’s at Oberlin College, did graduate work in psychology at UCLA, and earned his doctorate in experimental psychology at Yale University. He was an Oberlin trustee for many years and was chair of the board from 1975 to 1981.
The germ of “Sesame Street” was sown over a dinner party in 1966, where he met Cooney.
“I said, ‘Joan, do you think television could be used to teach young children?’ Her answer was, ‘I don’t know, but I’d like to talk about it,'” he recalled to The Guardian in 2004.
The first episode of “Sesame Street” — sponsored by the letters W, S and E and the numbers 2 and 3 — aired in the fall of 1969. It was a turbulent time in America, rocked by the Vietnam War and raw from the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. the year before.