Photo Credit: Kelly Writers House
Penn State President Amy Gutman, May 14, 2016.

President Joe Biden plans to nominate the president of the University of Pennsylvania Amy Gutmann, 71, as his ambassador to Germany, Deutsche Welle reported Wednesday, citing German government sources who confirmed a report in Der Spiegel magazine.


Gutmann’s father, Kurt, grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family in Feuchtwangen, Germany, and fled Nazi Germany in 1934 after Adolf Hitler had risen to power in 1933. He was denied asylum in the US, so he brought his family, including four siblings, to Bombay, India, where he founded a metal fabricating factory. In 1948, Kurt Gutmann met Beatrice, Amy’s future mother, on a visit to New York City and they married a few weeks later.

Amy Gutmann told Adam Bryant of The New York Times in June 2011: “The biggest influences on me for leading preceded my ever even thinking of myself as a leader—particularly my father’s experience leaving Nazi Germany. Because I would not even exist if it weren’t for his combination of courage and farsightedness. He saw what was coming with Hitler and he took all of his family and left for India. That took a lot of courage. That is always something in the back of my mind.”

As president of the University of Pennsylvania, Gutmann has been a leading national advocate for financial aid based on need, to promote socioeconomic diversity in higher education. She made Penn State one of only a few American universities that substitute grants for loans for any undergraduate student with financial need. In September 2009, for the first time in Penn’s history, all undergraduates eligible for financial aid received grants rather than loans.

From 2005 to 2009, Gutmann served on the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board, a committee that advises the FBI on national security issues relating to academia.

Gutmann’s appointment as US Ambassador to Germany requires confirmation by the Senate and approval by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Johann Wadephul, deputy parliamentary leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative alliance, told Reuters that “with Amy Gutmann, Joe Biden is relying on an experienced bridge builder. She is taking on a difficult legacy after Richard Grenell.”

The Germans did not hide the fact there was no love lost between Berlin and former President Donald Trump’s envoy Richard Grenell.

Gutmann is married to Michael Doyle, professor of law and international affairs at Columbia University. They have one daughter, Abigail Doyle, the A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Chemistry at Princeton University.


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