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Credit: Ananya Chandra

The White House announced in a press release on Friday afternoon that President Joe Biden is tapping Penn President Amy Gutmann as the next United States ambassador to Germany, confirming reports from earlier this week.

Hours after the press release, Gutmann sent an email to the Penn community, commenting on the nomination publicly for the first time. She wrote that she will continue to serve as Penn's president until June 30, 2022, as she had previously planned, or whenever the U.S. Senate confirms her as the ambassador, which would likely accelerate her departure.

"Until that time, I remain absolutely energized and engaged in leading Penn with an unrivaled leadership team and community of faculty, students, staff, and alumni," Gutmann, the University's longest-serving president, wrote in the email. "The Penn community has shown its true mettle more than ever this year, and to great effect for our city and Commonwealth, country and world." 

The announcement underscores the significant changes in Penn's administration for the upcoming year. Scott Bok, the new Chair of the Board of Trustees, began his term on July 1 and Provost Wendell Pritchett, a top Penn official, will be taking a medical leave of absence through the end of 2021. 

Bok also released a statement on Gutmann's departure, and wrote that "the Board had already begun its transition planning and we will provide details on that to the University community in the near future."

Gutmann still needs to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate and accepted by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. If this happens, she will become the first female ambassador to Germany in U.S. history. 

The announcement confirms rumblings that Gutmann may be tapped for a position in Biden’s administration. Both Gutmann and the University maintain close ties with Biden, who held the position as an honorary “Benjamin Franklin Presidential Practice Professor” at Penn since 2017. Biden also established the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington, D.C.

Gutmann wrote that she is "grateful beyond what any words can adequately express" to Biden for the nomination and is looking forward to working to represent America when working with "one of our closest and most important European allies."

There have also been reports that Biden plans to nominate former Chair of the Board of Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania David Cohen as U.S. ambassador to Canada. Cohen, now an executive at Comcast, was a prominent donor who hosted Biden's first official 2020 presidential fundraising event, according to The Washington Post. 

On Tuesday, Washington Bureau Chief René Pfister of Der Spiegel, a German newspaper, reported that Gutmann would be nominated to assume the U.S. ambassadorship to Germany. U.S. news correspondent of t-online Fabian Reinbold, a former Der Spiegel reporter, responded on Twitter with an English translation confirming the veracity of Pfister's announcement. Reinbold added that Gutmann's father fled Germany in 1934 at the beginning of the Holocaust, resettling in the U.S. a decade later.

This is not the first time that Gutmann is involved with the White House. In 2009, former President Barack Obama nominated Gutmann to serve as Chair of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, where she spearheaded multiple research projects to advise the president on science and technology-related issues.

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