New FIRST President Lawrence Cohen

Posted by FIRST

MANCHESTER, N.H., November 25, 2019 FIRST ®, a robotics community that prepares young people for the future, has announced the appointment of Lawrence Cohen as President of FIRST . The appointment was announced by Co-Chairs of the FIRST Board of Directors, Kelly Ortberg and Bob Tuttle, and FIRST Founder Dean Kamen. Cohen brings both extensive management and technology leadership experience and a passion for advancing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) through the mission of FIRST .

In his role as President, Cohen will work with the FIRST Board of Directors to advance the organization’s strategic objectives, collaborating with the FIRST community and senior management team to continue scaling FIRST programs to make hands-on learning opportunities available to even more students around the world – especially in underserved and underrepresented communities.

FIRST is pleased to welcome Lawrence Cohen as our new President,” the Co-Chairs said. “His long history of leadership experience and commitment to FIRST will help take the organization to new heights as an international movement, building on our strong programmatic and financial position to find new ways to innovate and scale. While Larry is new to FIRST headquarters in this role, he has been a consistent driver of our mission to build science and technology leaders, having served for nearly a decade on the Board of Directors for NYC FIRST and on its Executive Advisory Board.”

Cohen joins FIRST after more than 30 years in various leadership roles, where he drove business transformations primarily in the areas of information technology and operations. He has served in executive management capacities at Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and UBS, and was most recently Partner and Global Head of Operations and Technology at AllianceBernstein (AB), an asset management and research firm in New York. During his 13 years at AB, Larry also served as Executive VP, Global Head of Technology and Chief Technology Officer.

“I am honored and thrilled to join this inspiring and game-changing organization, which I’ve seen have an enormous impact in my own community and around the world,” Cohen said. “Now more than ever we must continue advancing the mission of FIRST by helping young people across the globe gain the skills they need to thrive. The world is changing rapidly, and I believe the next generation of innovators and problem-solvers – like the millions of students who have participated in FIRST programs – will be the key to our collective long-term success and prosperity.”

Along with his passion for FIRST and professional management experience, Cohen brings with him an impressive background in information technology innovation and operational excellence. At AB, he led strategic planning, governance, and management of technology programs, business operations, enterprise infrastructure, application development, information security, data management, client services and business continuity. Previously he served as an information technology executive at several global financial services firms, including assignments in Asia and Europe for Morgan Stanley.

Cohen received a degree in Engineering and Applied Sciences from Harvard University, and serves as a mentor at Columbia University for the Master’s Program in Technology Management and as Past Chair of the Board of Directors for Bridges to Prosperity – an organization dedicated to eradicating poverty caused by rural isolation.

“I’m impressed and enthusiastic about the remarkable wealth of both technical and management experience Larry brings to this organization,” said FIRST Founder Dean Kamen. “He is joining FIRST at a time of growth and success, thanks to the hard work of our community and the outstanding leadership of current President, Donald Bossi, who has been a tireless champion for the past six years.”

The Board of Directors formed a Search Committee for the organization’s new president in July, following Bossi’s announcement of his planned retirement from FIRST . Cohen’s appointment as President is effective December 3, 2019.

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He has a tough act to follow, but here’s hoping he’s able to continue taking FIRST in a positive direction!

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I was really really hoping it would be a FIRST alumni.

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The oldest FIRST alumni, like someone who played Maize Craze as a senior, would be in his or her mid-40s now. Not to say it’s impossible, but there weren’t many of them then and they would still be relatively young for the role.

Whenever Cohen rides off into the sunset, apply, apply, apply?

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Dean was in his 40’s when he started FIRST. Just sayin’.

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At least it’s someone from within FIRST, and hopefully someone from NYC FIRST will understand and change certain thread-derailing policies that affect NYC and the state of New York.

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You’re never too young or too old to change the world.

As someone from NY who admittedly does not know Larry that well (if at all), I don’t think said topic will be discussed much at his level of influence (feel free to prove me wrong!). But again, thread derailing topic, let’s keep the tread at least semi on track…

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It doesn’t mention if he’s ever mentored a team before, which I would have been pretty happy with. Guess we’ll see where he takes us.

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FIRST now is a much different thing than FIRST was back then. To give you an idea of the difference… FLL wasn’t started until 1998. FTC in 2005. In just those two programs, FIRST is supporting over 40,000 teams. Add in another ~8,000 for FLL Jr (2004) and ~4000 for FRC. Add in the hundreds of events held world wide. I believe there were a total of 7 teams and one event in 1992 (according to TBA).

Dean started something great… but it was maybe one one-hundredth of a percent as big as it is today. Even if we go so far as to say Dean would have been awesome at running a program this big when he was 40… how often does someone like that come along? As organizations grow, they start looking for more experienced people for the very top positions, people that have proven themselves in roles with similar scope. It takes time to work up the corporate ladder, to gain enough experience for such a position.

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I’ve known Larry for the past 15 years, having worked for him in a professional capacity and through NYC FIRST. I couldn’t be more excited to have Larry selected as President of FIRST. Larry is a brilliant individual, an inspiring leader, and is truly passionate about STEM education. I’m sure that Larry is going to do great things for our organization.

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Any chance you know his position or opinion on the district model? 2 Champs? Registration fees?

Would love to learn where he personally stands on some of the larger topics around FIRST that effects the year-to-year operations of teams and teams overall experience participating in the program.

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His LinkedIn page shows he was on the FIRST EAB in New York City 2010-2013, and on the FIRST BOD for New York City ever since. It also lists experience mentoring students pursuing an MS in Technology Management at Columbia University for the past 5 years.

So, it doesn’t look like he has experience as part of a team, but certainly a ton of relevant experience in general. Honestly, I’m not sure what team-based experience would do for someone at his level… it seems that Frank’s level (and below) would be more applicable for people with team experience, capable of having a bigger impact within a single program.

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This statement baffles me.

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The 7 teams on TBA are the surviving teams. There were 28 total teams competing in 1992:

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No, I don’t know about those specific issues, sorry. Most of my conversations with Larry about FIRST have been very specific to the programs in New York City. New York City FIRST has done a lot of great things in recent years, including launching two STEM Centers ( https://www.nycfirst.org/stemcenters ) , hosting the FIRST Inspires Gala ( https://give.firstinspires.org/event/2019-first-inspire-gala/e221253 ) and running the first ever FIRST Corporate Challenge ( https://vimeo.com/372257284/6ffd6610f3 )

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I think perspective is valuable at all levels. Being able to relate to your largest group of stakeholders is very important.

I also think there’s no way to be involved with the BoD of a FIRST region for so long without being aware of the team experience, the struggles that teams face, and ultimately how to best promote the team experience with high level decisions.

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He means FRC team based experience.

This was argued over already in the Bossi resignation thread. I don’t think it needs to be rehashed.

Even if he was speaking specifically about FRC team experience, it still seems like a crazy blanket statement to make. As Ginger said above, relating to your largest group of stakeholders is extremely beneficial. To say that team-based experience would not be beneficial to the President of the organization just seems really off to me. Not trying to derail the thread, but I think talking about concerns regarding the position of President seems on-topic for this thread to me.

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Yeah it was discussed in the Bossi thread.

Nothing we can do now. Looks like the priority is solely on folks who can extend the FIRST agenda globally.

I’m hoping Lawrence Cohen will be a strong advocate for equal access and affordability in FRC.

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I’m glad it was someone with FIRST experience, especially with a program like NYC FIRST. I also think he will be a good advocate for affordability and expanding access because of his experience with Bridges to Prosperity. While some people may be disappointed that he has not been heavily involved with any one particular FIRST team, I think they should be happy that he has as much experience as he does. I’m ready to give this guy a chance and I’m excited to see what he can do for FIRST.

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