Jean Picker Firstenberg retired in late 2007 after serving as President and CEO of the American Film Institute for 28 years. Since her retirement she has written and edited two books with former colleague, James Hindman. Published in late 2017, their book BECOMING AFI: 50 Years Inside the American Film Institute details AFI’s journey on how it evolved from its launch in the White House Rose Garden in 1965 where President Lyndon Baines Johnson said, ‘We will create an American Film Institute…’ to becoming a foremost national champion for moving images as a vibrant art form and a critical component of American’s cultural history. In 2014, they edited THE AFI CONSERVATORY: Toni Vellani on the Practice of Filmmaking compiled by Gary Winick, AFI Class of 1986.
Upon her retirement from AFI, Firstenberg was honored with an AFI Life Achievement Award for service to the institute and was named President Emerita and a Lifetime Trustee. Among the significant advances during Firstenberg’s years at AFI was the acquisition of the campus of Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles; the AFi Conservatory being accredited by both the National Association of Schools of Art and Design and the Accrediting Committee of 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 which celebrates its 32nd anniversary in 2018, making AFI the largest nonprofit exhibitor in the United States.
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.