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Joan Cooney

Co-Founder, Sesame Workshop

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Joan Ganz Cooney, co-founder of Sesame Workshop, was producing documentaries at Channel 13 when she took on the opportunity to research how television could be used to educate pre-schoolers. The research led to one of the most beloved children's shows still on air today.

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, Arizona, 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 spurned into a study on the topic funded by Carnegie Corporation and conducted by Cooney. The 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, and after four decades 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, was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton, was awarded an Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement, and in 2007, the Sesame Workshop founded The Joan Ganz Cooney Center, named in her honor.

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