Sesame Street is saying goodbye to one of the great minds behind the iconic children's television show. Lloyd Morrisett, Sesame Workshop co-founder, has died, the organization announced Sunday. He was 93.
No cause of death was provided.
"A wise, thoughtful, and above all kind leader of the Workshop for decades, Lloyd was fascinated by the power of technology and constantly thinking about new ways it could be used to educate," the Sesame Workshop tweeted as part of a multipart thread celebrating Morrisett's legacy.
'Sesame Street' co-founders Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett with their friends.
Born Nov. 2, 1929, in Oklahoma City, Morrisett received his B.A. in philosophy from Oberlin College. Though he originally intended to become either a chemist or an academic like his UCLA professor father, Morrisett was fascinated by experimental psychology and innovative methods of learning. A breakthrough came in 1965 when Morrisett realized that his young daughter Sarah had memorized a bunch of jingles for TV advertisements.
"If television could successfully teach the words and music to advertisements, couldn't it teach children more substantive material by co-opting the very elements that made ads so effective?" Michael Davis wrote of Morrisett's epiphany in Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street.
Sesame Street, which Morrisett co-created with TV producer Joan Ganz Cooney, became the vehicle for testing that hypothesis with its premiere in 1969. Like advertisements, Sesame Street employed catchy music and colorful characters — but for the purposes of teaching children (especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds) how to count, read, write, and relate to other people. It has been a massive success in those areas, and continues to be.
"Without Lloyd Morrisett, there would be no Sesame Street," Cooney said in a statement. "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 50 years, and he will be sorely missed."