|77th Treasurer of Pennsylvania|
|Assumed office |
January 17, 2017
|Preceded by||Tim Reese|
|United States Ambassador to the United Nations for Management and Reform|
April 26, 2011 – December 19, 2014
|Preceded by||Joseph Melrose (acting)|
|Succeeded by||Isobel Coleman|
|Secretary of Education of Pennsylvania|
August 13, 2008 – January 18, 2011
|Preceded by||Karl Girton|
|Succeeded by||Larry Wittig|
|Chair and Chief Executive of the National Constitution Center|
June 1, 2006 – January 1, 2009
|Preceded by||Rick Stengel|
|Succeeded by||Linda Johnson (acting)|
January 29, 1997 – December 31, 2003
|Preceded by||Robert Brasler|
|Succeeded by||Rick Stengel|
|Deputy Mayor of Philadelphia for Policy and Planning|
January 6, 1992 – September 30, 1993
|Preceded by||Justin Moorhead|
|Succeeded by||Greg Rost|
|Born||October 8, 1963|
Berwick, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Education||University of Pennsylvania (BA)|
New College, Oxford
Joseph M. Torsella (born October 8, 1963) is the State Treasurer for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Torsella was elected on November 8, 2016 to be the next Treasurer of Pennsylvania. He has served as the U.S. Representative to the United Nations for Management and Reform (with the rank of ambassador) from 2011 to 2014. He previously served as President and CEO of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia from 1997 though 2003 and again from 2006 through 2008 and as the Chairman of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education from 2008 through 2011.
- 1 Education and personal life
- 2 Early career
- 3 Political aspirations
- 4 Other endeavors
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Education and personal life
Torsella is a graduate of Wyoming Seminary high school in Kingston, Pennsylvania and an honors graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, 1986, with a degree in economics and history. As a Rhodes Scholar (1986–1990), he did graduate work in American History at New College, Oxford. He and his wife, Carolyn Short Torsella live in Flourtown, Pennsylvania and are the proud parents of four children.
Torsella served as Philadelphia's Deputy Mayor for Policy and Planning for Mayor Ed Rendell (later Governor of Pennsylvania) from January 1992 to September 1993. He was not yet 30. Under Rendell, Torsella developed and implemented financial and labor reforms that led the city toward a fiscal rebound that the New York Times called "one of the most stunning turnarounds in recent urban history". The municipal renaissance was chronicled in journalist Buzz Bissinger's book A Prayer for the City, in which Torsella describes the Rendell administration's philosophy as "taking control of the government and restructuring it for effectiveness".
National Constitution Center 1997–2003
In 1988, the United States Congress passed and President Ronald Reagan signed the Constitution Heritage Act calling for the creation of a National Constitution Center to "disseminate information about the United States Constitution on a non-partisan basis in order to increase the awareness and understanding of the Constitution among the American people". The non-profit museum and education center was to be located in Philadelphia. But for almost a decade the project languished, financially troubled and inadequately focused.
By 1997, the Constitution Center was still not built and already had an operating deficit of $200,000 (Philadelphia Business Journal, January 3, 2003). That year, Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell asked Torsella to become President and CEO. Torsella raised $185 million in private and public funds, formed a board of trustees led by Vanguard Group founder John C. Bogle and got the project back on track. The National Constitution Center opened on July 4, 2003 in a modern glass-fronted 160,000-square-foot (15,000 m2) structure (designed by Henry H. Cobb of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners) located on the north end of Independence Mall.
Olympic Bid 2005
In 2005, Torsella co-chaired the city of Philadelphia's bid for the 2016 Olympic Games, along with David L. Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast Corp , and Olympic gold medalist Dawn Staley. Chicago was ultimately selected as the U.S. Olympic bid city, but Torsella continues to serve as co-chairman of the Philadelphia Olympic and International Sports Project , the successor organization to Philadelphia 2016 that attracted two Olympic team trial events - table tennis and gymnastics - to Philadelphia.
Return to National Constitution Center 2006
Torsella returned as President and CEO of the National Constitution Center in 2006, after his successor, Richard Stengel, left to become managing editor of Time magazine. Under Torsella's leadership, the Center became the permanent home of the annual Liberty Medal ceremony. The medal was presented in 2006 to former Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton for their humanitarian work following Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami in Southeast Asia. In 2007, it went to Bono and DATA , the advocacy organization Bono co-founded for raising awareness about AIDS and extreme poverty in Africa. In 2008, the medal was presented to Mikhail Gorbachev to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
In 2007, Torsella personally persuaded former President George H. W. Bush to serve as Chairman of the Board of Trustees, the only active board position President Bush then held. In 2008, Torsella announced that former President Bill Clinton would replace Bush as chairman as of January 1, 2009. Jeb Bush currently serves in that capacity .
The Constitution Center also hosted key events during the 2008 presidential race. On March 18, 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama delivered his much-heralded speech on race relations in America at the Constitution Center, one that historians Garry Wills and Harold Holzer have compared to Abraham Lincoln's famous Cooper Union address. On April 16, 2008, the National Constitution Center hosted a Democratic presidential primary debate between Senators Obama and Hillary Clinton, the last and highest rated debate of the primary season. That evening, Torsella's appearance on The Colbert Report aired on Comedy Central , in a segment awarded "Best TV Performance" in Philadelphia Magazine's 2008 Best of Philly issue.
In 2008, on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Constitution Center launched an International Engagement Program to promote constitutional principles in emerging democracies by using the civic learning and educational initiatives it developed at the Constitution Center. The Program sought to bolster civil society in Afghanistan through partnerships with the Ministry of Education, the Marefet School and non-governmental organizations. The Constitution Center supported Nasim Fekrat, Afghanistan's leading blogger, to strengthen citizen journalism in the country. In addition, the Constitution Center provided Afghan students with digital cameras and camcorders to capture the sights and sounds of freedom, religious expression and other civic themes as part of its Being "We the People" exhibit project, which opened at the Constitution Center on August 24, 2009 .
On December 11, 2008, Torsella announced that he would be stepping down as President and CEO of the Constitution Center at the end of January 2009; the Philadelphia Inquirer described his tenure as a "resounding success" and called him a "modern-day founding father."
In 2004, Torsella ran for a seat in the U.S. Congress in Pennsylvania's 13th congressional district. Torsella received endorsements from the region's major newspapers, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, but was outspent by close to $1 million, and lost in a close Democratic Party primary to Allyson Schwartz.
In 2009, Torsella announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination in the 2010 U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania. Tosella withdrew from the race after incumbent Senator Arlen Specter switched party affiliations from Republican to Democrat, citing a desire to avoid a potentially negative primary fight that would weaken Democratic chances in the November 2010 general election.
In 2016, Torsella was elected to Pennsylvania State Treasurer, beating Republican Otto Voit of Berks County. As Treasurer, Torsella is responsible for overseeing more than $100 billion in public assets, but his bigger challenge comes with changing the public perception. The position of treasurer was previously held by Timothy A. Reese, who was nominated and confirmed in June 2015 following the resignation of Rob McCord.
Chairman of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education
On August 13, 2008, Governor Edward G. Rendell named Torsella the Chairman of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education.
Under Torsella's leadership, the State Board passed a landmark reform strengthening high school graduation requirements on August 13, 2009; the reform requires students to demonstrate proficiency in core subjects such as math, science, English and social studies prior to receiving a diploma. When an earlier proposal for graduation testing ran into heavy opposition from statewide education groups and was reversed by the legislature, Torsella brokered a compromise initiative that was approved by the state's Independent Regulatory Review Commission on October 22, 2009 and took effect beginning with the 2010-2011 school year.
The Board partnered with Pennsylvania's Department of Education to develop an application for the federal government's Race to the Top initiative, an incentive program designed to spur reform in K-12 education across the country . In the first round selection, Pennsylvania was seventh out of forty-one applicant states and submitted a second round application on June 1, 2010. To support that application, the Board expedited its review and adopted "Common Core" academic standards in math and English language arts.
In other initiatives, the Board initiated reviews to improve school safety, held more than half of its meetings outside Harrisburg and urged a variety of measures to make college more accessible and affordable, including the creation of a "no frills" option in higher education. More recently, the Board advanced new regulations on school nutrition and physical activity to reduce childhood obesity, a response that has been called "the most comprehensive such standards in the nation."
On June 10, 2010, Governor Rendell tapped Torsella to lead Pennsylvania's participation in Complete College America , a 22-state effort to significantly increase college completion and accessibility by 2020.
On November 15, 2010, Torsella was nominated by President Barack Obama to the position of U.S. Representative to the United Nations for Management and Reform, with the rank of Ambassador; on January 5, 2011, he was renominated after a lame duck session ended without his confirmation. He had a second hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on March 16, 2011 (with Sen. Robert Casey, Jr. acting as chairman) and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 19, 2011.
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 U.S. 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 U.S. policy. In his testimony to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Torsella said the UN "at its best" could be a "powerful tool" but that "too often, we have seen [the UN] at its worst," and criticized "waste, inefficiency…abuse…[and] political theater."
Treasurer campaign, 2015–2016
In 2015, Torsella announced his candidacy for State Treasurer of Pennsylvania. It was an open seat election. The position of treasurer was being held by Timothy A. Reese, who was nominated and confirmed in June 2015 following the resignation of Rob McCord. Reese promised not to run for election, when nominated for the appointment. In January 2015, the Torsella campaign announced that it had set a fundraising record for any candidate for Pennsylvania row office 22 months ahead of the general election.
Torsella's campaign focused on transparency, integrity, and accountability in government and increasing opportunity through policy innovation. Torsella's policy proposals included: universal college savings accounts, portable IRAs for Pennsylvania workers whose employers do not offer retirement savings plans, banning the corrupt practice of third-party marketers introducing money managers to the state, appointing a chief integrity officer for Treasury, creating an online Pennsylvania Sunshine Checkbook that shows all state spending, disclosing all state contracts on alternative investments, adding political contributions by contract-holders to the Treasury's state contracts database, and requiring those trading public funds to disclose their personal trades.
Banning third-party placement agents was a key issue in the campaign. Torsella announced in April 2016 that he would ban these middlemen, a key element in several recent corruption indictments related to Pennsylvania Treasury, as Treasurer. His opponent opposed a ban on third-party marketers. This played a role in newspaper endorsements with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette specifically citing Voit's failure to vow to ban middlemen as a factor in their endorsement of Torsella.
Torsella received the endorsement of all major newspapers statewide in his campaign including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Philadelphia Inquirer, Erie Times-News, Scranton Times-Tribune, Citizens' Voice, and Hazleton Standard Speaker.
On November 8, 2016 Torsella was elected to Pennsylvania State Treasurer, beating Republican Otto Voit III of Berks County. Torsella captured 50.66% of the vote, winning by a larger margin (380,593 votes) than any other statewide candidate.
Pennsylvania State Treasurer
Torsella was sworn in as Pennsylvania’s State Treasurer on January 17, 2017.
During his swearing-in ceremony, he immediately fulfilled his campaign promise to begin building integrity in the Treasurer’s office. His first act as Treasurer was instating a formal ban on third-party placement agents. In his first week in office, Torsella implemented the Treasury Department’s first ever code of conduct policy. The policy covers all personnel involved with investment activities and their immediate family members. That same week Torsella reduced the size of the Department’s vehicle fleet by more than half, returning eleven vehicles to the Commonwealth.
Torsella appointed the Department’s first ever Chief Integrity Officer in February of 2017. He appointed Kenya Mann Faulkner to the position. She served as Pennsylvania’s Inspector General under Tom Corbett’s Administration. Torsella continued his pursuit of integrity and accountability with new pre-payment auditing practices for the Treasury’s Bureau of Fiscal Review. The new practices save more than $50 million annually.
In April of 2017, Torsella transitioned all public equity investment holdings to a low-cost, index investment strategy. The action is estimated to save taxpayers $5 million dollars a year. The move to index investments reduces fees and risk on investments while improving returns for taxpayers.
In June of 2017, Torsella led a bipartisan effort of fellow state treasurers to help protect American families and their ability to save for retirement. Torsella’s actions reflect his support of fiduciary protections and policies that encourage financial empowerment for everyone.
In April of 2017, Torsella teamed up with more than 200 disability advocates, families, state lawmakers and U.S. Senator Bob Casey to officially open Pennsylvania Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) Savings Program. Casey sponsored the federal legislation that authorized states to establish ABLE accounts. PA ABLE allows those with disabilities and their families a way to save for disability related expenses without losing access to benefits they may depend on.
PA ABLE quickly became one of the fastest growing ABLE programs in the nation.
In February of 2018, Torsella, along with state lawmakers, announced the launch of the state’s first universal children’s savings program for higher education. Keystone Scholars, launched with a demonstration project including six of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties: Delaware, Elk, Indiana, Luzerne, Mifflin, and Westmoreland. The Keystone Scholars pilot provided a $100 grant as a starter deposit in a PA 529 plan for all babies born from the designated counties in 2018. The goal of the program is to encourage families to start saving early for postsecondary education expenses, and to encourage postsecondary education ambitions.
The demonstration project was funded by $2.25 million in private funds. Philanthropic funding sources include the PHEAA Foundation, the Neubauer Family Foundation, and the National Philanthropic Trust. Torsella became the program’s first philanthropic donor in 2017, when he donated his automatic pay increase. He continues to donate his annual pay increase to Keystone Scholars.
Keystone Scholars legislation drew bipartisan support and was sponsored by Senators John Gordner (R) and Vincent Hughes (D), and Representative Duane Milne (R). Keystone Scholars was passed by Pennsylvania lawmakers in June of 2018, and signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf. This legislative action made Pennsylvania the largest state in the country to implement an automatic universal children’s savings account program. Starting January 1, 2019, all babies born or adopted to a Pennsylvania family qualify for the $100 Keystone Scholars grant.
PA 529 College and Career Savings Program
The Pennsylvania Treasury Department administers the state’s PA 529 program. To celebrate the program’s 25-year anniversary in 2018, Torsella changed the name from PA 529 College Savings Program to the PA 529 College and Career Savings Program in an effort to demonstrate the changing landscape of the education needs for the future workforce.
Torsella advocates for ways to create more affordable postsecondary education to help combat the growing student debt crisis. Pennsylvania graduates consistently lead the nation with the highest student debt loads. With PA 529 plans, families can save for future education expenses in tax-advantaged accounts. Families have access to two different options including the Guaranteed Savings Plan (GSP) that locks in today’s tuition rates, and the Investment Plan (IP) that offers 16 different investment options.
PA’s 529 program saw record growth after Torsella took office. Over its lifetime, the program has paid for billions of dollars in education related expenses.
In 2017, Torsella created the bipartisan Treasury Task Force on Private Sector Retirement Security to find ways to help the more than two million Pennsylvanians who do not have access to employee-sponsored retirement plans. The task force was charged with investigating the scale of the retirement crisis, cataloging solutions being enacted in surrounding states, and presenting options to empower Pennsylvanians to save for their retirement.
In March of 2019, Treasurer Torsella released the final report of the task force. It provides overviews of each hearing’s testimonies, a breakdown of other states’ efforts to combat the retirement crisis, and final recommendations.
Treasurer Torsella increased efforts to return unclaimed property being held by Treasury—returning hundreds of millions of dollars since taking office. This includes $91,000 that was returned to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in a partnership with Good Morning America. CHOP donated the returned funds to its Violence Prevention Initiative that spearheads anti-bullying programs in schools.
The Pennsylvania Treasury Department holds billions of dollars in unclaimed property including dormant bank accounts, forgotten safe deposit boxes and uncashed checks. Treasury has a simple search tool to help as many Pennsylvanians as possible get back what is rightfully theirs.
Military Medal Returns
Torsella initiated a dedicated effort to return unclaimed or abandoned military decorations to veterans and their families. Treasury’s vault holds hundreds of military awards and medals, including Purple Hearts and Bronze Stars.
Torsella launched a dedicated database to search for lost military medals that may be held by Treasury for safekeeping.
Torsella spearheaded the creation and launch of the state’s first online tool to track state spending in real-time, the Transparency Portal. The Transparency Portal won national and global recognition.
The portal was launched in 2017 and made the General Fund balance available in real-time on the Treasury Department’s homepage. Users also had access to monthly and annual expenditures, and the ability to see how any active lines of credit were affecting the General Fund.
The Transparency Portal was then relocated and expanded to its own website. The Treasury Department continuously works to further expand its capabilities. Taxpayers can use the tool to analyze state spending across all state departments and agencies.
As part of Act 5 enacted by the Pennsylvania legislature in 2017, Treasurer Torsella served as vice-chair of the Public Pension Management and Asset Investment Review Commission (PPMAIRC) in 2018. PPMAIRC was responsible for conducting the first-ever independent review of the state’s largest pension funds including the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) and the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS).
The commission released its findings in December 2018 in a comprehensive, nearly 400 page report. It included recommendations that over 30 years could save Pennsylvania taxpayers nearly $10 billion dollars.
Torsella, as the overseer of all state investments, goes beyond his constitutional responsibility and urges companies the state invests in to operate in a socially responsible manner—including calling for changes to a company’s corporate governance and practices that affect its role in major social or environmental issues.
Torsella has moved to hold drug manufacturers and distributors accountable for their role in the opioid epidemic. Torsella joined more than 40 institutional investors to form the Investors for Opioid Accountability Coalition. Together they filed 26 shareholder resolutions at 10 drug manufacturers and distributors calling for changes on issues connected to the opioid epidemic.
Torsella has served as a trustee or advisor to many civic and non-profit organizations, including the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau; the Holocaust Awareness Museum; Historic Philadelphia, Inc.; the Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation; the Springside School; and the Knight Foundation. He has written widely on historical and contemporary issues, with some of his work published in the [null New York Times], the Philadelphia Inquirer, the [null Cleveland Plain Dealer,] and the [null Miami Herald]. Torsella is a sought-after public speaker, and has appeared frequently in national broadcast media, including appearances on ABC's Nightly News, Good Morning America and the Colbert Report.
In 1994, Torsella developed the Spaghetti Smock, a linen bib for adults.
In 2004, he founded a business consulting firm called 743 Ventures.
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- Philadelphia Sports Congress 
- City of Philadelphia 
|Non-profit organization positions|
| Chair and Chief Executive of the National Constitution Center
| Chair and Chief Executive of the National Constitution Center
| Secretary of Education of Pennsylvania
| Treasurer of Pennsylvania
| United States Ambassador to the United Nations for Management and Reform