Gil Cates

Jason Merritt/FilmMagic

The Oscars have lost its favorite leading man.

Gilbert Cates, the veteran director-producer who supervised a record 14 Academy Award telecasts, died on Monday. He was 77.

According to a statement from UCLA, where Cates was founding dean of the School of Theater, Film and Television department, emergency medical personnel responded to a call on campus at about 5:50 p.m. Monday but were unable to revive Cates. No word on cause of death.

Though he could not confirm Cates' identity pending notification of next of kin, Ed Winter, assistant chief coroner at the Los Angeles County Coroner, tells E! News his office is investigating the death.

News of Cates' passing led his filmmaking colleagues to release a statement.

"Gil was our colleague, our friend and a former governor of the Academy," said Tom Sherak, president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences 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."

Cates, the uncle of actress Phoebe Cates, got his start directing a variety of TV series, telefilms and Broadway in the 1960s before making the leap to the big screen with 1970's I Never Sang For My Father.

But it was his work producing the Oscars that earned him the most accolades, including several Emmys.

Starting with the the 62nd Academy Awards in 1990, Cates helped boost the ceremony's viewership by tapping a slate of well-received hosts, most notably Billy Crystal who hosted eight times, as well as Whoopi Goldberg, Steve Martin, and most recently Chris Rock and Jon Stewart. He was also credited with creating the In Memoriam segment, saluting stars who had passed away during the year.

"So sorry to hear Gil Cates has died," tweeted Martin today. "He helmed two Oscar shows I hosted. He was delightful, wise, canny and unperturbed. A great fellow."

"He was the one who put me in the Oscar's hosting sphere," said Whoopi Goldberg, who hosted four times. "He was a big part of my life in California.  He was a stand-up guy and I will truly miss him."

Cates' other film credits include Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973), Oh God! Book II (1980) and Backfire (1988).

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