The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences made history Tuesday night by electing its first African-American president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs. The marketing and publicity veteran replaces Howard “Hawk” Koch who served one eventful year-long term. Isaacs is only the third woman to hold the position and the first since Fay Canin was president between 1979 and 1981.
Isaacs has been an Academy governor for 21 years so she has first-hand knowledge of all the changes the organization has gone through over the past decade. Currently the head of her own marketing consultation company, Isaacs is the former president of marketing at New Line and one-time head of publicity at Paramount Pictures. The Hollywood lifer’s credentials are noteworthy, but her election is another positive sign for an institution that has struggled to diversify its membership quickly enough to silence its critics.
There was significant change among the other elected board positions as well. John Lasseter was elected first vice president (he previously served as secretary and treasurer). Noted costume designer Jeffrey Kurland and makeup artist Leonard Engelman were elected to vice president posts. Former Disney studio chief Dick Cook was elected treasurer and screenwriter Phil Robinson was elected secretary.
Academy board members may serve up to three consecutive three-year terms, while officers serve one-year terms, with a maximum of four consecutive years in any one office.
Koch broke with tradition by bringing back last year’s Oscar producers, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, before the end of his term. Usually, that hire is left to the incoming president. Isaacs is not expected to change producers at this time. Hollywood may not get a chance to see how Isaacs would put her stamp on the show unless she’s re-elected a year from now.