Given to an "individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry", the Jean Hersholt Award is not an annual honor, but rather an occasional prestigious title.
This year's winner was Sherry Lansing, the former CEO of Paramount Pictures and the first woman to head a major studio. Her biography in Wikipedia provides a full overview of her industry and humanitarian accomplishments.
She delivered the following acceptance speech at the 79th Annual Academy Awards ceremony last night:
I am deeply honored and very grateful to receive this award, but I also must admit that it feels a little strange to be singled out. So many of you have causes that you are equally passionate about. That is really what is so wonderful about the movie industry -- not only do we get to make films that matter, but we also work in a culture where we are encouraged to speak out. We may not always agree, but we do always care.
Through my work, I have met scientists who struggle every day to find cures for diseases. They do so quietly -- without glamour or attention, but always with passion and conviction. I have met school teachers who are battling against insurmountable odds, and yet they never stop trying to reach our children. To me, they are the real heroes, and tonight I share this honor with all of them.
On a personal note, I want to thank my husband Billy and our two boys Cedric and Jack, whose unconditional love gives me the courage to fight every day for what I believe in. And a special thank you to the members of the Academy for this extraordinary honor. I promise to spend the rest of my life trying to live up to it.
She joins a list of only been six honorees in the last seventeen years, Audrey Hepburn (1992, posthumously), Elizabeth Taylor (1992), Paul Newman (1993), Quincy Jones (1994), Arthur Hiller (2001), and Roger Mayer (2004).