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Long-time University trustee David Cohen is four days from becoming the chairman of the Board of Trustees.

Cohen will assume his position on Nov. 7, following the conclusion of the trustees meetings. He will succeed James Riepe, who has been chairman of the Board of Trustees since 1999.

“There’s nothing better than building on [Riepe’s] success,” Penn President Amy Gutmann said, adding that she has “total confidence that [Cohen] possesses everything we want as the new chair.”

Cohen graduated from Penn Law in 1981. He was “a brilliant law student — the top of his class,” according to Penn Law Dean Michael Fitts.

Cohen has been a trustee since 2001. As the founding chairman of the School of Medicine’s board and executive committee, he played an important role in developing the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, the Roberts Proton Therapy Center and the Anne and Jerome Fisher Translational Research Center.

He has also been an active member of other University Trustee committees, including the Executive, Audit and Compliance, Budget and Finance, Nominating and Compensation committees.

As executive vice president of Comcast Corporation, Cohen is a member of the team that oversees the telecommunications and entertainment conglomerate.

Previously, Cohen served for five years as chief of staff to Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who was the mayor of Philadelphia at the time.

Over the past two decades, Cohen has been “regarded as the most astute adviser to Philadelphia leaders, whether politicians or CEOs,” said Penn Trustee Robert Blank.

Cohen has seen “how impactful Penn can be as an institutional force for the betterment of West Philadelphia and the city as a whole,” he wrote in an e-mail, calling the University “a big part of the city and region’s future.”

Not only does he understand Penn’s role in Philadelphia, but Cohen has also worked diligently to understand all of Penn’s graduate and undergraduate schools since he was named the new trustee chairman a year ago, University Secretary Leslie Kruhly said.

“He is indefatigable with an uncanny ability to understand the goals and needs of each of [Penn’s schools], as well as advocate for and support those goals,” Nursing Dean Afaf Meleis wrote in an e-mail.

As the chairman, Cohen said he would like to see the University continue to make progress on every element of the Penn Compact — President Gutmann’s long-term goals for the University.

He said he hopes to expand “access to all of the wonderful things that Penn has to offer to a wider and broader constituency,” continue Penn’s efforts to integrate cross-disciplinary knowledge and engage “both locally and globally.”

Colleagues and Penn administrators are universally positive in their admiration of him.

“Imagine if Superman wasn’t allergic to kryptonite — that’s David,” Vice President and Chief of Staff for the Office of the President Greg Rost said.

Cohen knows he has big shoes to fill, as he called Riepe’s term as chairman “the platinum standard,” but he is excited to take on the position.

“Having seen the positive impact that Penn has on so many lives,” he wrote, “working hard to increase and spread that impact is something I am truly passionate about.”

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