Judith Rodin

President, The Rockefeller Foundation, 2005 – 2017 President Emerita, University of Pennsylvania

Judith Rodin is a pioneer, innovator, change-maker and global thought-leader. For over two decades Rodin led and transformed two global institutions: The Rockefeller Foundation and the University of Pennsylvania. A ground-breaking executive throughout her career, Dr. Rodin was the first woman named to lead an Ivy League Institution and was the first woman to serve as The Rockefeller Foundation’s president. A research psychologist by training, she was one of the pioneers of the behavioral medicine and health psychology movements.

Dr. Rodin’s leadership ushered The Rockefeller Foundation into a new era of strategic philanthropy that emphasized partnerships with business, government, and the philanthropic community to address and solve for the complex challenges of the 21st century. As president, Rodin recognized that the Foundation’s funding alone was unable to spur the kind of systemic change necessary to solve the key challenges facing the world. Responding to that dynamic, Rodin led the Foundation in a sweeping transformation that modernized all operational and programmatic aspects of The Rockefeller Foundation. Rodin looked for new spaces where there was momentum for innovation, identified places where Rockefeller could use its influence to leverage additional financing and engage private and public sector partners to ensure impact continues after Rockefeller grantmaking ends. Building on the Foundation’s history of creating and developing the field of public health and the Green Revolution, under this new form of strategic philanthropy, Rodin championed two whole new fields that are now pervasive: resilience and impact investing. Under her presidency, the Foundation invested more than half a billion dollars and leveraged billions more in resilience programs including establishing 100 Resilient Cities, the creation and growth of urban resilience-building strategies and investments around the globe. As a result of her vision, in 2015 Fast Company named The Rockefeller Foundation one of the top ten innovative non-profits in the world.

When Dr. Rodin was named president of the University of Pennsylvania in 1994, she was not only the first woman named to lead an Ivy League institution, but was the first Penn graduate to serve as its president. She came to Penn from twenty two years at Yale University where she had served as a faculty member, Dean of the Graduate School and Provost. At Penn, Dr. Rodin presided over an unprecedented decade of growth and progress that transformed the institution, its campus, and the community, taking the university from sixteenth to fourth in U.S. News and World Report national rankings. Under her leadership, Penn doubled its research funding, tripled both its annual fundraising and the size of its endowment, and attracted record numbers of undergraduate applicants, including its most selective classes in history. The University also engineered a comprehensive, internationally acclaimed neighborhood revitalization program in West Philadelphia.

Dr. Rodin has served as a member of the board for several leading corporations including Aetna. AMR, EDS, Citigroup, Laureate Education, Inc. and Comcast NBCUniversal. She has been named to Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women list, Crains Most Powerful Women in New York list, as well as the National Association of Corporate Directors’ (NACD’s) 2011 Directorship 100, in recognition of her work promoting the highest standards of corporate governance. In 2009 US News and World Report honored her in their list of America’s Best Leaders.

A widely recognized international leader in academia, science, and development issues, Dr. Rodin is a sought-after speaker for influential global forums, including the World Economic Forum, the Council on Foreign Relations, Habitat III, the Global Forum at the Vatican, and the United Nations General Assembly. In 2014, she was a co-chair of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos. Dr. Rodin also served as a member of the African Development Bank’s High Level Panel and a founding board member of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, US Artists and ArtPlace. In November 2012, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo named Dr. Rodin to co-chair the NYS 2100 Commission on rebuilding to create long-term resilience for the State of New York following Superstorm Sandy. Dr. Rodin has also served on many other non-profit boards including Carnegie Hall, the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, and the Global Impact Investing Network.

A pioneer of the behavioral medicine and health psychology movements, Dr. Rodin was trained as a research psychologist. After completing her Ph.D. at Columbia University in 1970, she joined the faculty of New York University as an assistant professor of psychology. She moved to Yale in 1972. She was promoted to associate professor in 1975, named a full professor of psychology in 1979, and added the title of professor of medicine and psychiatry, under the School of Medicine, in 1985. Prior to her appointment as Yale’s provost in 1992, she served two years as chair of the department of psychology and one year as dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. At Yale, Dr. Rodin earned an international reputation as both a pioneer of the women’s health movement and as one of the early psychologists to master both the biological and psychological factors that lead to obesity. From 1983 to 1993, she chaired an international research network studying health-promoting and health-damaging behavior for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Dr. Rodin’s research also contributed to the understanding of aging by demonstrating that elderly people who are given control over their environment are more active, healthier, and live longer than those who are consigned to helplessness. In recognition of her scientific achievements, Dr. Rodin served on President Clinton’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology and is a member of several leading academic societies, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Rodin has authored of more than 250 academic articles and chapters, and has written or co-written 15 books, including her two most recent, The Power of Impact Investing: Putting Markets to Work for Profit and Global Good (Wharton Digital Press, 2014) and The Resilience Dividend: Being Strong in a World Where Things Go Wrong (Public Affairs 2014). Dr. Rodin has also been featured in numerous publications and books over her career, including Tom Brokaw’s volume, Boom! Voices of the Sixties: Personal Reflections on the ’60s and Today (Random House, 2007). Dr. Rodin has been the recipient of 19 honorary doctorate degrees and numerous additional honors. In 2004, she received both the prestigious Philadelphia Award and the William Penn Award for her “commitment to elevating the economy of West Philadelphia and the quality of life for its residents; for her leadership roles in galvanizing Philadelphia’s higher education institutions in order to keep the region’s brightest graduates there; and for promoting the region as a high-tech business location.” In 2006, she was awarded the Pennsylvania Society’s Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement, which is bestowed upon “a prominent person in recognition of leadership, citizenship and contributions to the arts, science, education and industry,” making her the first person ever to receive all three of these major Pennsylvania honors.

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Authored Content

  • Feb 27 2017
    Blog Post Valuing the Resilience Dividend Just months after I became president of The Rockefeller Foundation, New Orleans experienced one of the worst disasters in American history: Hurricane Katrina. While we did what we could to help address the human suffering in the immediate aftermath of the storm, The Rockefeller Foundation understood that the scale of this disaster was long in […] Judith Rodin
  • Jan 31 2017
    Blog Post Introducing Zilient: A global resilience network A version of this post original appeared on  Imagine that with just one click you could access a destination where you could learn of a groundbreaking new technology; participate in an online workshop with peers from around the world to create new solutions; comment on a rigorous piece of research; be challenged by a […] Judith Rodin
  • Nov 16 2016
    Blog Post The Legacy of Citizen Jane Legendary urban activist and author Jane Jacobs once wrote that, “big cities have difficulties in abundance, because they have people in abundance.” At the time she wrote it, the world’s population was less than half of what it is now. Still, her belief in empowering urban citizens to get involved in their communities and shape […] Judith Rodin
  • Oct 17 2016
    Blog Post Building Resilience for the New Urban Agenda As urban leaders meet in Quito this week for Habitat III, the gathering marks the 20-year anniversary of the second Habitat conference, and the 40-year anniversary of the first. In between each of these historic events, we haven’t simply turned the pages of the calendar. An entire generation has come of age. A technological revolution […] Judith Rodin
  • Sep 19 2016
    Blog Post Advancing the Global Goals This post is part of a series focusing on efforts to advance the Global Goals. KEY STATISTICS: 40 percent of food loss occurs before food even reaches the market. [Share This]  Of every $3 spent on development, $1 is lost to natural disasters. [Share This]  It will cost an estimated $5-7 trillion to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. [Share […] Judith Rodin