A founder of the Sesame Workshop and co-creator of Sesame Street, Joan Ganz Cooney knew that educational television was her calling the moment she walked into Channel 13. Born and raised in Phoenix, Ariz., Cooney moved out east after college working as a publicist for the likes of RCA, NBC and CBS's United States Steel Hour. It was at CBS when a colleague told her about educational television and her new career took off.
At a dinner party with Lloyd Morrisett, an executive at Carnegie Corporation, a conversation on whether children could learn from watching television prompted a study on the topic funded by Carnegie Corporation and conducted by Cooney. After traveling across the nation, Cooney’s final report suggested a show like Sesame Street.
With $8 million in funding, the Children's Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop) was founded to produce the show. The first episode of Sesame Street premiered on PBS on November 10, 1969 to critical acclaim and high ratings. Half a century later, Sesame Street remains a beloved children's television show.
Cooney was the first female non-performer to be inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton was won an Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2007, the Sesame Workshop founded The Joan Ganz Cooney Center, named in her honor.