Filmmaker, philanthropist/studio executive to receive honorary degrees

November 02, 2007

University Park, Pa. – Penn State's Board of Trustees on Nov. 2 approved the granting of honorary degrees to Academy Award-winning director William Friedkin and philanthropist Sherry Lansing, a pioneering studio executive and movie producer and the first female movie studio head. This is the first time Penn State has honored a married couple.

Lansing will receive a doctor of humane letters degree and Friedkin will receive a doctor of fine arts degree at the May 2008 commencement.

A visionary movie and television director, producer and screenwriter, Friedkin directed well-known films such as "The Exorcist," "The French Connection," "To Live and Die in L.A." and "The Hunted." He won an Academy Award for Best Director and a Director’s Guild of America Award for "The French Connection" and also was nominated for an Academy Award for "The Exorcist."

His artistry energized the movie industry and helped usher in a new era of filmmaking, establishing a reputation in excellence for intelligent and visually innovative dramatic filmmaking. Friedkin was nominated for an Emmy Award for a television remake of the film "Twelve Angry Men," and won the Fipresci Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for the movie "Bug."

Friedkin has continued to make ground-breaking films that have influenced generations of audiences and filmmakers worldwide.

Lansing has achieved many pioneering firsts: as chair of Paramount Pictures from 1992 to 2005, she oversaw the release of more than 200 films, including Academy Award winners "Forrest Gump" and "Titanic."  Her previous positions included first woman president of production at 20th Century Fox and senior vice president at Columbia Pictures.

She also headed her own production company, Lansing Productions, and was a partner in Jaffee/Lansing Productions, which produced for Paramount the films "The Accused," "Fatal Attraction" and "School Ties."

Currently as founder and chair of The Sherry Lansing Foundation, she focuses on fund-raising for education, health care and cancer research. She also is on the executive committee of the boards of Friends of Cancer Research and the Lasker Foundation, a trustee of the American Association for Cancer Research, and is working actively on behalf of the American Red Cross, the Carter Center and Stop Cancer, a non-profit group she co-founded with the late industrialist Armand Hammer.

Lansing’s honors include the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Pioneer of the Year Award from the Foundation of the Motion Picture Pioneers, and the American Association of Cancer Research Public Service Award.  She also is a regent of the University of California and a trustee of the University of Chicago.

A photo of Lansing is available at online. A photo of Friedkin is available at online.

  • Friedkin and Lansing will receive honorary degrees from Penn State.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated November 18, 2010