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Biographical background on 2006 Dartmouth honorary degree recipientsJOAN GANZ COONEY(Doctor of Arts)

Posted 05/01/06 • Roland Adams (603) 646-3661

Joan Ganz Cooney
Joan Ganz Cooney

In 1968, Joan Ganz Cooney co-founded the Children's Television Workshop through which she originated the long-running preschool educational series, Sesame Street. The innovative program was hailed as the first preschool program to integrate education and entertainment while emphasizing multi-culturalism. On the heels of the unprecedented success of Sesame Street, Cooney and her colleagues went on to create other award-winning children's television, including The Electric Company, 3-2-1 Contact, Square One TV, Ghostwriter, CRO, Big Bag, Dragon Tales, and Sagwa, the Chinese Cat.

A pioneer in educational children's television, Cooney's Children's Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop) programs have been awarded more than 92 Emmys and Sesame Street, a PBS staple for almost 40 years, has been broadcast in 140 countries around the world.

Cooney earned her B.A. from the University of Arizona and began her career as a reporter for a Phoenix newspaper before moving to New York where she worked as a publicist for NBC and for the U.S. Steel Hour, a highly-regarded CBS drama series. She went on to produce several award-winning public affairs documentaries for New York's public station WNET/Thirteen. In 1966, Cooney conducted a Carnegie Corporation-commissioned study about children and television. Her report, entitled, "The Potential Uses of Television in Preschool Education," ultimately led to the founding of the Children's Television Workshop.

Cooney serves as a trustee for non-profit institutions, including the Museum of Television and Radio, the New York Presbyterian Hospital, the WNET Channel 13/Educational Broadcasting Corporation and the National Child Labor Committee. Cooney was awarded a 1989 Daytime Emmy for Lifetime Achievement, and in 1990 she was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame and received the Founders Award from the International Council of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. In 1998, she received the Annenberg Public Policy Center's award for Distinguished Contribution to Children and Television and was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. In 1995, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, and most recently, she received the National Endowment for the Humanities Award from President Bush.

Cooney has served as a member of the President's Commission for a National Agenda for the Eighties, the President's Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, the Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations and the Carnegie Foundation's National Panel on the High School. Among the institutions to confer honorary degrees upon her are Harvard, Princeton, Brown, Columbia, Barnard, New York University, Smith, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Oberlin, University of Pennsylvania and her alma mater, the University of Arizona, from which she received the Centennial Medallion Award in 1989.

Cooney is married to New York businessman Peter G. Peterson, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce. She has five stepchildren and eight grandchildren.

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