By Dave Karger
November 01, 2011 at 06:40 PM EDT

Gil Cates, the film director who was best known as a frequent producer of the Academy Awards telecast, has died at age 77, EW has confirmed. “Gil was our colleague, our friend and a former governor of the Academy,” says AMPAS president Tom Sherak in a statement. “He was a consummate professional who gave the Academy and the world some of the most memorable moments in Oscar history. His passing is a tremendous loss to the entertainment industry, and our thoughts go out to his family.”

Overseeing the Oscar telecast is a tiring and daunting task, and therefore one that producers rarely tackle in two consecutive years. But Cates produced the show a staggering 14 times between 1990 and 2008. He was responsible for hiring such diverse Oscar hosts as Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, David Letterman, Steve Martin, Chris Rock, and Jon Stewart. Cates, who was the uncle of actress Phoebe Cates, directed the films Oh God! Book II and I Never Sang for My Father, as well as the TV movies Consenting Adult and Do You Know the Muffin Man? He received a total of 16 Emmy nominations during his career, winning once, for the 1991 Oscar ceremony.

UPDATE: Steven Spielberg has also paid tribute to Cates, releasing the following statement: “No one may ever again achieve what Gil Cates achieved in his contributions to the success of the Motion Picture Academy and the Directors Guild. In producing 14 Oscar shows for the Academy and leading the Directors Guild through challenging times and negotiations, he set a remarkable standard for dedication and excellence. He was the most like person I knew and will be missed by all who knew him as a proud member of our industry and a great pal to everyone.”

And from MPAA president Chris Dodd: “Gil Cates has been one of our Hollywood greats — always visionary, entrepreneurial and generous. His varied career in this industry crossed cinema, television and academia: from leading the Directors Guild of America, developing 14 Oscar shows, producing his own feature films, to mentoring future generations as Dean of UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television. We’ve lost a great man today, but Gil Cates shall always remain present in our hearts and in our memories.”