Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy will receive the Irving G. Thalberg award from the Academy's Board of Governors during a ceremony this year. Being in charge of one of Hollywood's most prominent franchises has made more people aware of Kennedy, but cinephiles know she's been an industry staple for decades. Her first producing credit came in 1982 on Steven Spielberg's E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial, and Kennedy has put together quite the career ever since. To date, she's been nominated for Best Picture eight times - most recently for Spielberg's Lincoln.
Star Wars discourse is more toxic than ever due to constant debates about The Last Jedi and Solo underperforming at the box office, but Kennedy has been a great asset for the galaxy far, far away. Under her leadership, Star Wars made its triumphant comeback in 2015 with The Force Awakens, which grossed over $2 billion worldwide and earned positive reviews. Despite Solo falling short of expectations, the four most recent Star Wars films have earned more than $4 billion collectively, eclipsing the price Disney paid for Lucasfilm. It's safe to say Kennedy has had a very successful career, and now she's going to be recognized for her efforts.
According to Deadline, Kennedy (along with her husband, Frank Marshall) will receive the Irving G. Thalberg award this year. The award honors people “whose body of work reflects a consistently high quality of motion picture production.” It was last given out in 2010, when Francis Ford Coppola won. Coincidentally, George Lucas was honored with the Thalberg award back in 1991.
Kennedy, who becomes the first woman to receive the award, is certainly deserving of this honor. One look at her résumé illustrates she's one of the best in her profession, as she's been involved with some of the most iconic films of all-time. A case can be made she would have been given the Thalberg award much earlier in her career if it were not for Academy rules. For years, Kennedy was a member of the Board of Governors, and members cannot earn honorary Oscars. Now that she's left, the Board swiftly made the decision to acknowledge her achievements. Kennedy isn't immune to making some missteps (the infamous Solo director switch), but her filmography speaks for itself.
It'll be interesting to see if there ever comes a day when Kennedy finally wins a competitive Oscar. The Academy announced plans to introduce a Popular Film category, which seems tailor-made for one of the many Star Wars films in development. However, due to the category generating tremendous backlash, some Academy members think the organization will reverse course and kill the new award. That could hurt Kennedy's chances, but the Oscars have been open to recognizing genre fare before, so perhaps a Star Wars film could make a Best Picture run at some point.