Lloyd Morrisett, the co-creator of the beloved children’s TV program Sesame Street, has died at 93, Sesame Workshop announced on Monday.
“Without Lloyd Morrisett, there would be no Sesame Street,” co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney wrote in Sesame Workshop’s announcement. “It was he who first came up with the notion 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.”
Morrisett co-founded the Sesame Workshop, originally the Children’s Television Workshop, with Ganz Cooney in 1968. He served as a board member until his death.
The impetus for Sesame Streetwhich first aired in 1969, was both the civil rights movement and the fact that children from disadvantaged backgrounds were entering school months behind grade level, Morrisett said in a 2019 interview with member station WBUR.
“We hoped to find a way — using television — that we may help those children who would otherwise not succeed in school, do better,” Morrisett said.
The show doesn’t just teach letters and numbers. Throughout its history, it also has taught children about tolerance and dealing with the tough parts of life, with storylines about everything from divorced or incarcerated parents to the death of loved ones.
It was among the first shows on television to show Black and white children playing together, and after the murder of George Floyd, Sesame Street partnered with CNN to host a town hall about racism.
Part of the show’s purpose was to “show kids that they could be friends with people who weren’t like them,” Morrisett said.
The Sesame Workshop wrote that the show was “only the most visible tribute to a lifetime of impact” from a “wise, thoughtful, and kind leader.”
Born in 1929, Morrisett earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oberlin College and a doctorate in experimental psychology from Yale University. From 1969-1998, he served as president of the John and Mary R. Markle Foundation and launched its program in communications and information technology. Before his time at the Markle Foundation, he served as vice president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.