Campus & Community

Education scholar Gerald Lesser, 84

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Developed curriculum for ‘Sesame Street’ while at HGSE

Gerald Lesser, Charles Bigelow Professor of Education and Developmental Psychology Emeritus at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), died on Sept. 23 at the age of 84.

Lesser is perhaps most well-known as one of the scholars who, during his time at HGSE, developed the curriculum for the acclaimed PBS series “Sesame Street,” a show unparalleled in the history of television. Throughout his 30 years at HGSE, he continued to work on “Sesame Street” where he served as chairman of the Children’s Television Workshop’s board of advisers from 1969 through 1996. Lesser was determined to ensure the show’s value as a learning experience, establishing a strong culture of assessment and writing the 1974 book, “Children and Television: Lessons from Sesame Street.”

“As a young assistant professor, I assigned Gerry Lesser’s work to my students because it illustrated the power of applied developmental science,” said Dean Kathleen McCartney, the Gerald S. Lesser Professor in Early Childhood Development. “The first time I met Gerry Lesser, he joked that he was sorry to have saddled me with the name ‘Lesser Professor’; he also told me how proud he was that the dean of the School was serving in a chair that honored him. But I am the one who is proud to carry his name along with mine.”

To read the full obituary, visit HGSE’s website.