David L. Cohen ’77, a Swarthmore alum and longtime executive at Comcast Corp., was ceremonially sworn in as the next U.S. ambassador to Canada by Vice President Kamala Harris on Nov. 30, after receiving bipartisan confirmation by the full Senate last month. Cohen’s appointment, which was approved in a unanimous voice vote, was celebrated on both sides of the political aisle.
A political science, history, and economics major at Swarthmore, Cohen went on to attend law school at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating summa cum laude in 1981. He served as a partner and chairman at the law firm Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll in Philadelphia and as chief of staff to former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell.
In 2002, he joined the leadership team at Comcast, where he served as executive vice president and senior executive vice president. Cohen also served as Comcast’s first chief diversity officer. Since early 2020, he has been a senior adviser to Comcast’s CEO, Brian Roberts.
Cohen also maintains close ties to Swarthmore. He delivered the 2008 McCabe Lecture on “The Intersection of Politics, Business, and Public Policy," and he was a featured speaker at the inauguration of former President Rebecca Chopp in 2009. Cohen’s wife, Rhonda Resnick Cohen ’76, is a retired partner with Ballard Spahr and has been a member of Swarthmore’s Board of Managers since 2010. A scholarship named for the couple was established in 2004 and is awarded annually to a Swarthmore student on the basis of academic merit and financial need.
“This is an extraordinary achievement for David, and a testament not only to his professional accomplishments, but also to his lifelong commitment to service,” said Swarthmore President Valerie Smith. “We are incredibly proud to count David and Rhonda among our alumni, and we wish them and their entire family the best in this exciting new journey.”
In the 2014 book Swarthmore College: A Community of Purpose, Cohen reflected on the intellectual discourse he experienced at the College that led him to challenge and refine his analytical thinking. “In terms of the knowledge I absorbed,” he wrote, “learning to persuade and be persuaded, the constant give and take, coming to Swarthmore was the best decision I could have made.”
Cohen has sat on a number of boards for major organizations and nonprofits, including the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the National Urban League, the Corporate Board of Advisors of UnidosUS (which he chaired), City Year, and the 2026 FIFA World Cup Philadelphia Bid Committee, which he chaired. He also served on Penn’s Board of Trustees from 2001 to 2021, including the last 12 years as board chair, a position he stepped down from in July. Cohen continues to serve as a member of the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission.
Cohen joins a growing list of Swarthmore alumni to hold U.S. ambassadorships, including the late James Hormel ’55, H’09, the first openly LGBTQ person to represent the United States as an ambassador; Erica Barks-Ruggles ’89; Michael Corbin '82; A. Elizabeth Jones '70; and Sandra Clark ’78, the current U.S. ambassador to Burkina Faso.