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Sheryl Lyna Stamps-Leach (born December 31, 1952 in Athens, Texas[1]) is best known as the creator of the Barney the Dinosaur franchise, having involvement and producing the video series Barney & The Backyard Gang and its successor Barney & Friends, alongside co-creators Kathy Parker and Dennis DeShazer.

Early Life

Leach was born in Athens, Texas to her mother Mary Elizabeth Whitesides Stamps[3] her father Billy Joe "B.J" Stamps. She was raised in Dallas, Texas by her father, who was the assistant superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District.[4][5]

Education

A graduate of Kimball High School[6] in Dallas, she holds a bachelor's degree in elementary education, with a specialty in Spanish from Southern Methodist University and a master's and honorary doctorate from Texas A&M University–Commerce.[7]

Career

Barney the Dinosaur

In fall 1987, Leach was stuck in a traffic jam thinking about the lack of videos that held the attention of her 2-year-old son, Patrick.[8] At this time, the only preschool aged programs around were Sesame Street and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, however, they appealed to a larger age range, rather than strictly toddlers. At the time, the only thing that could hold Patrick’s attention was a “Wee Sing” video.[9] This prompted Leach to develop a show herself. Her initial thought was the notice of children carrying snugly security objects, such as blankets and teddy bears. Leach thought the idea of a talking blanket and teddy bear interacting with children were a neat idea, however, the blanket concept was too hard to pull off. The bear concept was eventually scrapped due to her son having an interest in dinosaurs after visiting a Science Place exhibit.

Sheryl Leach proposed a preschool video series, which eventually would be Barney & The Backyard Gang, to DLM, Inc (Developmental Learning Materials). At the time Sheryl Leach was working at DLM, Inc. as a writer. The board she proposed to turned her down. Owner of DLM, Inc., Richard C. Leach, who was Sheryl's father-in-law, agreed to back her with the project with $700,000 of his own money. Sheryl's idea was brought to production at The Lyons Group, in which she was the president of the company[8] from 1988-1995.

Sheryl Leach & Barney the Dinosaur on the park set.

Leach then brought together a team who created a series of home videos called Barney & The Backyard Gang. The videos were sold directly to the public. Later, in 1991, Connecticut Public Television employee Larry Rifkin rented a Barney video for his daughter. He liked the concept, so he spoke with Leach and other creators about putting Barney on television. In October of that year, production began on the new TV show, titled Barney & Friends, and in April 1992, it first aired on PBS. Leach was an executive producer of the series until 1998, leaving co-creator Dennis DeShazer as executive producer until the HIT Entertainment acquisition. She made a brief return in 2001 as she was tapped to consult with the crew about the changes for Season 7.[10] Leach became a shareholder at HIT Entertainment in which she held 35.5% of HIT shares alongside others.[11][12]

Post-Barney

Currently, Leach's company SL Productions LLC is developing a feature film of The Unicorn Sonata, based on the novel by Peter S. Beagle. Additionally, with her husband, Howard Rosenfeld, she has created and funded the Shei'rah Foundation, a not-for-profit organization using media to encourage understanding between differing cultures.

Achievements

Ms. Leach has received numerous awards and honors for her achievements with Barney. She was named "Entrepreneur of the Year" by the CNBC cable network, has been honored with a National Freedoms Foundation award and received a national humanitarian award from B+nai B+rith International - the first woman to receive this prestigious award since Eleanor Roosevelt. Her speaking credits include the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., The Detroit Economic Club and the national conference of American Women in Economic Development. She has been a featured guest on many talk shows including The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, The Home Show and Donahue.[13]

Other ventures

Sheryl Leach and Howard Rosenfeld attend T Magazine and ABC Carpet & Home present Deepak Chopra at ABC Home & Carpet on May 17, 2010 in New York City

Philanthropy and activism

Leach and her husband Howard Rosenfield are involved with land conservation projects in their home town of Warren, CT. This effort includes two organic farms, as well as country-store retailing with its focus being on ‘everything local’. On December 26, 2007 Sheryl Leach and Howard Rosenfeld donated a 37.84 acre conservation easement to the Warren Land Trust. They had purchased the property, formally used as a farm and located at 66 Town Hill Road. from the estate of Lille Byron.[14] Leach is an advocate of locally grown produce and products as she and her husband Howard Rosenfield founded the The Farmer's Table in 2011.[15] Leach also owns a farm in South Africa that supports the work of the Global White Lion Protection Trust.[7]

Personal Life

Leach was first married to her high school sweetheart. Soon after, she met James "Jim" Leach while working as a writer at DLM Inc. Within a year, they dated and got married when Leach was thirty-years-old. Together, the two of them had a son named Patrick Leach. Sheryl and Jim eventually divorced before Jim passed away 2004.[16] Leach is currently married to Howard Rosenfield.[17]

Gallery

Barney & Friends

Trivia

  • The character of BJ was named after Sheryl Leach's father.[1]

References

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