Born in Chicago, Sherry Lansing studied acting at Northwestern University and appeared in two Hollywood films before she decided to give up acting in favor of the executive side of the movie industry. Starting in development, she soon became Vice President in charge of production at Columbia Pictures. Then, in 1980, Lansing became the first woman to head a major Hollywood studio when she was hired as President of 20th Century Fox. She would continue as a producer, partnering with Stanley R. Jaffe, and eventually moving to the position of Chairman of the Motion Pictures Group at Paramount. Sherry Lansing retired as the head of Paramount in 2005. The following year she received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 79th Academy Awards, in recognition of her long commitment to supporting cancer research.