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April 18, 2013 at 01:25 PM EDT

Star Wars

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You may not know her name, but you’ve likely seen it numerous times — on the credits of such films as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Schindler’s List, Seabiscuit, and Lincoln.

For serving in various production capacities on those and some 60 other big-screen movies, as well as for her humanitarian and philanthropic efforts, Kathleen Kennedy was named 2013 Pioneer of the Year Wednesday night by film exhibitors at their annual CinemaCon convention.

In the award’s nearly 70-year history, Kennedy is only the second woman so honored. (The first was former Paramount chief Sherry Lansing in 1996.) And, among women, Kennedy is the all-time box-office champ, with films selling more than $5 billion in tickets in North America alone. (Only her frequent collaborator Steven Spielberg has sold more.)

Speaking before the ceremony, the 59-year-old Kennedy said she’s never felt her gender played a significant role in the workplace. “But I recognize that it means a lot (to some people).” she said. “I have two daughters myself, and I find myself often saying to them, `Look, you can do anything you can put your mind to,'” Kennedy continued. “And I think that’s true. I think women today, this generation, is recognizing that. I think there are going to be some very creative, powerful women coming along in the field.”

Among celebrities in attendance for the ceremony were two of Kennedy’s Lincoln actors, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who also served as the night’s emcee, and Sally Field.

“She’s also a wife and a mother,” Field said of Kennedy. “So, for all those people who said, `You can’t have it all.’ They never told her.”

In October 2012, Kennedy became president of Lucasfilm and, at present, is working on Star Wars Episode VII, set for release in 2015. “We’re working on getting a script,” Kennedy said. “We’re working with (director) J.J. (Abrams) every week. We’re having a great time and I think we’re going to come up with something really wonderful.”


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