Lloyd Morrisett, co-creator of 'Sesame Street,' dies at 93: 'He will be sorely missed'
Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind “Sesame Street,” shared the news of Morrisett’s death in a tweet Monday and confirmed his death to USA TODAY via email. A cause of death was not given.
“Sesame Workshop mourns the passing of our esteemed and beloved co-founder Lloyd N. Morrisett,” the organization wrote alongside a photo of Morrisett posing with a Muppet. “Lloyd 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.”
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Born in 1929 in Oklahoma City, Morrisett initially trained to be a teacher with a background in psychology. After receiving his bachelor’s degree at Oberlin College, Morrisett did graduate work in psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, according to the official Sesame Workshop website, later earning a doctorate in experimental psychology from Yale University.
In 1968, Morrisett co-founded the nonprofit Children’s Television Workshop (which would later be renamed Sesame Workshop) with former publicist Joan Ganz Cooney, who called Morrisett “a trusted partner and loyal friend” in a statement shared by Sesame Workshop via Twitter Monday.
Morrisett and 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.
“Without Lloyd Morrisett, there would be no Sesame Street,” Cooney said in the statement. ”It was he who first came up with the notion of using television to teach preschoolers basic skills, such as letters and numbers.”
She added: “He will be sorely missed.”
"Sesame Street" aired its first episode on public television on Nov. 10, 1969. The landmark educational children's series introduced the world to beloved Muppet characters, including Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, and helped pave the way for inclusion, diversity and learning onscreen. Morrisett worked as a writer on the series for 56 episodes from 1969-2010.
"'Sesame Street' (premiered) in '69, the year of both Woodstock and the moon landing, and carried on the optimism of the '60s," Ron Simon, curator of television and radio at the Paley Center for Media, told USA TODAY in 2019. "It was certainly an offshoot of the civil rights movement and brought together a multicultural cast and creative team."
“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).
The series, which moved to Warner Bros. Discovery's HBO Max streaming service in 2020, has also broken new ground for children’s television in recent years, introducing human and puppet characters dealing with issues such as homelessness, foster care and autism.
Morrisett is survived by his wife, Mary, daughters Julie and Sarah, and granddaughters Frances and Clara.
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Contributing: Patrick Ryan, USA TODAY; Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press