Tom Sherak 1945-2014

By Noela Hueso

Tom Sherak, TFT Adjunct Professor, former president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, and a beloved member of the entertainment industry community, passed away from prostate cancer on Tuesday, January 28. He was 68.

“He was an exceptional colleague and brilliant teacher,” Dean Teri Schwartz said. “Tom was greatly admired and respected by fellow faculty, staff and students, along with all of those with whom he worked and came in contact throughout the entertainment industry.”

Tom’s varied career in marketing, production and distribution made him an excellent choice to teach at TFT, which he did for nearly 30 years. When Professor Emeritus Howard Suber became head of the Producers Program in 1987, Tom — then chairman of 20th Century Fox Domestic Film Group — was one of his first and most rewarding hires. When Professor Denise Mann became head of the Producers Program in 1994, she asked Tom to return whenever his schedule allowed.

“Tom was one of the more popular and sought-after instructors in the UCLA Producers Program, providing all the graduate students in the School of TFT with up-to-date information about the industry and stellar guests that included the top tier of executives and creators in Hollywood,” observed Professor Mann.

When Tom left Fox in 2000, he became an equity partner at Revolution Studios, where he oversaw the release of more than 40 films including “Black Hawk Down,” “Anger Management,” “Rent” and “Across the Universe,” while still teaching at TFT. It wasn’t until nearly a decade later that he scaled back.

“He was a warm, funny, and immensely knowledgeable teacher. He might have continued at UCLA if he had not been elected president of the Academy (in 2009),” Professor Suber says, referring to the post Tom held for three consecutive one-year terms, ending his run in 2012.

In September 2013, Tom was named as director of the newly created Mayor's Entertainment Industry and Production Office under Mayor Eric Garcetti, becoming, in effect, Los Angeles’ “film czar,” put in place to help stem the tide of runaway production, among other things.

Tom’s philanthropy in Hollywood is renown. His daughter Melissa, now 40, was diagnosed with MS at the age of 15. In the intervening years after her diagnosis, Tom became an unwavering supporter of the MS Foundation, serving for two decades as chair of their annual gala, and raised nearly $50 million for MS research and programs in the process. In his honor, the MS Foundation has just been renamed the Tom Sherak MS Foundation.

Other nonprofits with which he was actively involved included the Fulfillment Fund of Southern California, the Will Rogers Foundation, the Motion Pictures and Television Fund and Southern California Variety – the Children’s Charity.

On March 26, Tom was slated to receive the prestigious 2014 Pioneer of the Year Award during Las Vegas’ CinemaCon, where he was to be honored as a humanitarian and industry icon; and in April he was to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In lieu of flowers, Tom’s family asks that donations be given to The Tom Sherak MS Hope Foundation. Checks can be made payable to The UCLA Foundation (with “The Tom Sherak MS Hope Foundation Fund #62674O” written on the memo line) and sent to 5555 Melrose Ave., Dressing Room Bldg. 302, Los Angeles, CA 90038. Checks donated to the Sherak Family Foundation can also be sent here. Donations to the Fulfillment Fund can be made by calling (323) 939-9707.

“We want to extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to Tom's beloved family for their terrible loss. He will be greatly missed by all of us at TFT/UCLA,” said Dean Schwartz.

Posted: Jan. 31, 2014