Jean Picker Firstenberg retired after almost 28 years as President and CEO of the American Film Institute (AFI) in late 2007. Her retirement came at the conclusion of AFI's 40th Anniversary celebration where she was honored with an AFI Life Achievement Award for service to the institute. She was named President Emerita and a Lifetime Trustee.
Firstenberg led AFI through many other significant advancements, ranging from the acquisition of the campus of Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles; to the AFI Conservatory being accredited by both the National Association of Schools of Art and Design and the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges; to the opening of the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center-a state-of-the-art center for the moving image arts in Silver Spring, Maryland-to the growing success of AFI FEST (AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival), which celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2016 making AFI the largest nonprofit exhibitor in the United States.
In 2014, Firstenberg, together with former colleague James Hindman, edited THE AFI CONSERVATORY: Toni Vellani on the Practice of Filmmaking Compiled by Gary Winick AFI Class of 1986. The book was published with the support of the Gary Winick Estate.
Before AFI, Firstenberg spent four years as program officer at the John and Mary R. Markle Foundation in New York City. She also served as Director of Princeton University's Publications Office.
Among the numerous boards she has served on are the University of Georgia's Peabody Awards Committee for 12 years and chaired it for six years. She was appointed by the U.S. Postmaster General to the Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee and served for 12 years and chaired it for six years. The Committee recommends all stamp subjects and their images for the Postmaster's approval. She also served on the Executive Committee of the Women's Sports Foundation for four years.
Firstenberg is a summa cum laude graduate of Boston University's College of Communications and served on Boston University's Board of Trustees for 12 years.