TUCSON, Ariz., Dec. 10 The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has recognized Jerry Lewis with one of its greatest honors, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
The award, named after renowned actor, past Academy president and motion picture industry supporter Jean Hersholt, is bestowed by the Academy on an individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.
Lewis, 82, one of the world's great acting, directing and comedy talents, and national chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, has devoted most of his adult life to seeking treatments and cures for people with muscular dystrophy and other devastating diseases.
"MDA is immensely proud that the man who has personified, for more than five decades, the Association's dual missions of help and hope has received this extraordinary honor," said Gerald C. Weinberg, MDA president and CEO. "The impact of his humanitarian efforts on all the peoples of the world is beyond measure."
In 1977, in nominating Lewis for the Nobel Peace Prize, Wisconsin Congressman and later Secretary of Defense Les Aspin said, "Jerry Lewis is a man for all seasons, all people and all times. His name has, in the hearts of millions, become synonymous with peace, love and brotherhood."
Lewis has been accorded a multitude of honors by the entertainment industry worldwide, but his work on behalf of mankind is every bit as recognized.
In 1985, the U.S. Defense Department presented Lewis its highest civilian award, the Medal for Distinguished Service. In 1996 the American Medical Association presented him and MDA Lifetime Achievement Awards "for significant and lasting contributions to health and welfare of humanity." Lewis has met with, and been recognized by, American presidents and heads of state around the globe.
"Jerry is probably best known by millions as the 'face' of the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon," Weinberg said. "It's the most magnificent philanthropic event of its kind, and it's appropriate now that the man who makes it all possible is singled out for his matchless compassion."
Previous recipients of the Hersholt Humanitarian Award include Bob Hope, Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Frank Sinatra and Paul Newman.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is the world's preeminent movie-related organization. The 2009 Academy Awards ceremony will be broadcast by ABC on Feb. 22 from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.
MDA is a voluntary health agency supporting programs of worldwide research, comprehensive services, advocacy and far-reaching professional and public health education for muscular dystrophy and related diseases. The Association's programs are funded almost entirely by individual private contributors.
SOURCE Muscular Dystrophy Association