'Sesame Street' co-creator and Yale grad Lloyd Morrisett's death leaves ‘indelible legacy’ on children's television

Photo of Amy Coval
A young girl interacts with "Sesame Street" characters Bert and Ernie.

A young girl interacts with "Sesame Street" characters Bert and Ernie.

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Lloyd Morrisett, co-creator of the children’s show, "Sesame Street," died at age 93 on Monday, Jan. 23. 

The nonprofit behind "Sesame Street," Sesame Workshop (originally named Children’s Television Workshop), announced Morrisett’s death on Twitter, writing the co-creator leaves an “outsized and indelible legacy among generations of children the world over, with ‘Sesame Street’ only the most visible tribute to a lifetime of good work and lasting impact.”

Morrisett’s co-creator, television producer Joan Ganz Cooney, also wrote a statement on the non-profit’s Twitter.

“Without Lloyd Morrisett, there would be no 'Sesame Street.' 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 was a psychologist who was the head of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He received his PhD in experimental psychology from Yale University in 1956.

In 1968, Cooney founded the Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) with the goal of creating an educational children’s television program. The mission was to make a show that could help prepare young kids for kindergarten. That same year, CTW received $8 million in initial funding from the U.S. Department of Education, Morrisett’s Carnegie Corporation, the Ford Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Cooney and Morrisett teamed up with famed puppeteer and former Greenwich resident Jim Henson to answer the question: Can television be used to teach children? They paired Henson’s Muppets with a human cast. Imaginative characters from Henson included Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Bert and Ernie and Oscar the Grouch. The trio aired the first "Sesame Street" episode in 1969.

"Sesame Street’s" success soared to unprecedented levels. In a 2006 report from the Corporation for Public Broadcast, it was reported that "Sesame Street" was reaching 8 million children each week, and that 74 million children were “graduates” of the television program, meaning they had been viewers at pre-K age.

In Morrisett's lifetime, "Sesame Street" won numerous accolades, including 216 Emmys, 11 Grammys and also received the Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime artistic achievement in 2019.

Morrisett was a board member for CTW (which became Sesame Workshop in 2000) until his death.