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Cheryl Boone Isaacs Elected President of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

New president will succeed Hawk Koch

Emerging from a lengthy career behind the scenes at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, Cheryl Boone Isaacs has become the org’s first African-American president.

Isaacs will succeed Hawk Koch, whose initial run as president was limited to one year because he had reached the limit of nine consecutive years on the Academy Board of Governors.

It was that 48-person body that chose Isaacs, the first vice president of the Academy board. Isaacs, who has held every other Academy board officer position and also produced last year’s Governor’s Awards, also becomes the first female Academy president since Fay Kanin in 1979-83 and third overall, counting the two-month tenure of Bette Davis in 1941.

Boone Isaacs currently heads CBI Enterprises, where she has consulted on such films as “The Call,” “The Artist,” “The King’s Speech,” “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” “Spider-Man 2” and “Tupac: Resurrection.” She previously served as president of theatrical marketing for New Line Cinema, where she oversaw box office successes including “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” and “Rush Hour.” Prior to joining New Line in 1997, Boone Isaacs was exec worldwide publicity veep for Paramount Pictures, where she orchestrated publicity campaigns for Oscar picture winners “Forrest Gump” and “Braveheart.”

Rob Friedman, the co-chairman of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group and most recently treasurer of the board was perceived as the other top candidate for the post.  Voting totals are not released by the Academy.

Later in the evening, the Academy announced the full slate of elected board officers: Pixar/Disney Animation chief creative officer John Lasseter as first vice president; costume designer Jeffrey Kurland and makeup artist Leonard Engelman as vice presidents; former Walt Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook as treasurer and “Field of Dreams” scribe Phil Robinson as secretary. These will be the first officer stints for Engelman, Kurland and Cook.  Lasseter previously served one-year terms as treasurer (2011-2012) and secretary (2009-2010), while Robinson served as vice president during the past year, his fourth consecutive term in that office (2009-2013).

Academy board members serve three-year terms, while officers serve one-year terms, with a maximum of four consecutive terms in any one office, including president.

The president role was once a ceremonial title. But in recent years, under Tom Sherak and Koch, the role has taken on greater responsibility, as each worked with the Academy’s salaried staff, including CEO Dawn Hudson and Ric Robertson to further diversity initiatives, while also trying to move the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, scheduled to open in 2017, closer to reality. They also dealt with questions of electronic voting, changes in Oscar rules (such as more than five best-picture contenders) and a restructuring of the staff, after the long-in-place Bruce Davis administration.

Koch’s fans within the Academy credit him with the open forum for all members a few months ago to address key issues. Non-fans remember him for rehiring Craig Zadan and Neil Meron as exec producers of the Academy Awards. Zadan and Meron subsequently brought in Seth MacFarlane to host their first Oscars — and many members consider the show a low point.

After a year’s hiatus from the board, Koch would be eligible for a return to board service.  The last Academy president to serve non-consecutive terms was Robert Rehme, from 1992-93 and 1997-2001.

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