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Joseph M. Torsella

Ambassador (Ret.) Joseph M. Torsella

Distinguished Visiting Fellow
Center for Public Policy
Office: 3600 Market Street, 725


Joseph M. Torsella served as U.S. Representative to the United Nations for UN Management and Reform from April, 2011 to January, 2014.

Ambassador Torsella was the architect and chief public spokesperson for the Obama Administration plans, released in 2012, for reform of the $36 billion UN system. In his tenure, the US reversed a decade-long trend of unbridled growth in UN budgets (including securing only the second UN budget reduction in 50 years), brought new transparency to the UN through webcasting of meetings and publication of UN audits, and won milestone reforms toward ending sexual exploitation and abuse of civilian populations by UN peacekeepers and ending the unfair exclusion of Israel in UN bodies. Torsella’s plainspoken style earned him praise from UN watchers and publications ranging from Le Monde to the New York Post, and he was recognized for his successful use of social media and public diplomacy to promote US policy.

Previously, Torsella served as the Chairman of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, leading the Board to pass a landmark accountability measure implementing rigorous statewide requirements for high school graduation.

From 1997 to 2003, Ambassador Torsella was the founding President and CEO of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, a non-profit museum and education center dedicated to explaining and celebrating American ideas and ideals. In that position, he steered the $185 million project from early concept to successful opening. He returned to the Constitution Center for a second term as CEO from 2006 to 2009, persuading President George H. W. Bush to join the Center as its Chairman, and working to establish the Center’s international program, including democracy education work in Afghanistan.

Torsella also has been a small business owner and, in 1992-93, served as a Deputy Mayor of the City of Philadelphia, where he led many of the management reforms that closed that city’s $1.2 billion cumulative deficit. He has been active in civic life, including chairing Philadelphia’s bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, and has written and spoken widely on both historical and contemporary issues.

Ambassador Torsella is a former Rhodes Scholar and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate (B.A., History/Economics, 1986) of the University of Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Carolyn P. Short, a partner at Reed Smith LLP, have four children and live in Flourtown, Pennsylvania.