Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy

AFSA’s Award for Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy honors those who have made extraordinary contributions to diplomacy and the diplomatic profession over many years. The American Foreign Service Association established its award for Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy in 1995. By giving this high-profile award, AFSA also seeks to bring greater recognition to its other awards, including its unique annual awards for constructive dissent.

Originally, there were no criteria beyond those implied by the award’s name. First in 2009, and later in 2016, the AFSA Governing Board refined the criteria guidelines to be as follows:

  • The nominee should have at least a decade of service to diplomacy and foreign policy development, and have made an enduring, positive impact on the diplomatic profession itself, including but not limited to promoting the Foreign Service’s primary role in foreign policy within the executive and legislative branches and strengthening the institution of the Foreign Service.
  • The nominees are normally retired career diplomats, but may include other individuals in exceptional circumstances. When looking at an individual who was not a career member of the Foreign Service, one must consider the effect that the individual has had on promoting the role of the Foreign Service and championing diplomacy. 
  • The nominees are considered for their accomplishments during both active duty and in retirement. The enduring impact of their work on diplomacy, the profession, and diplomatic institutions and practices is particularly important.
  • Nominees must be able to attend the awards ceremony in person.

The presentation takes place during AFSA’s annual Awards Ceremony, typically in October at the Department of State. The Secretary of State is invited to present this award. If the Secretary is unable to attend, a distinguished individual who has worked with the recipient is asked to present the award. Colin Powell presented the award to Thomas Pickering and to George Shultz; Elliot Richardson presented the award to Frank Carlucci; Mr. Carlucci presented it to Lee Hamilton; Robert Zoellick presented it to Richard Lugar; Senator Lugar presented to award to Senator Nunn; and Lawrence Eagleburger presented the award to Joan Clark. Honorees are presented with a globe and certificate. Click here for a complete list of previous recipients.

For information on these awards, please contact AFSA's Awards and Scholarships Manager Theo Horn Green at or (202) 719-9705.


Ambassador Herman 'Hank' Cohen received the association’s 2019 award for Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy in recognition of his exemplary Foreign Service career and significant contributions in support of bolstering a strong career professional Foreign Service. Past recipients of this award include George H.W. Bush, Thomas Pickering, Ruth Davis, George Shultz, Richard Lugar, Joan Clark, Ronald Neumann, Sam Nunn, Rozanne Ridgway, Nancy Powell and William Harrop. The award was presented on October 16 at 4:00 p.m. during a ceremony in the Dean Acheson Auditorium at the Department of State.

Ambassador Cohen was born in New York City and earned a B.A. in international relations from the City College of New York. He later received a Masters degree in the same field from American University. He served in the United States Army as a second lieutenant infantry platoon leader in Germany. In 1955 he joined the United States Foreign Service and went on to have a truly impressive 38-year career as an American diplomat.

Ambassador Cohen was an expert on U.S.-African relations. Among other postings, he served as Chief of Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureaus of Intelligence and Research and Personnel (now Human Resources); Senior Director for Africa and Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan on the National Security Council staff; Ambassador to Senegal and the Gambia; and Assistant Secretary of State for Africa.

As Assistant Secretary, Ambassador Cohen directed U.S. diplomacy in successful efforts to end civil wars in Ethiopia, Angola and Mozambique, as well as vital U.S. support to the process of ending apartheid in South Africa. In the final days of the Ethiopian war, he implemented President George H.W. Bush’s directive to airlift 18,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

After retirement from the Foreign Service, he worked as Senior Advisor to the Global Coalition for Africa, an intergovernmental body assisting African governments to adopt sound economic policies, from 1994-1999. Since the year 2000, Ambassador Cohen has presided over an international consulting firm, Cohen and Woods International, specializing in providing services to American companies interested in doing business in Africa. Cohen’s honors and awards include the French Legion of Honor, the Belgian Order of Leopold II, and the Foreign Service distinction of Career Ambassador.

Early in his career, Ambassador Cohen was instrumental in changing the path of the American Foreign Service Association, participating in the efforts to transform AFSA into a labor union as well as a professional association. Cohen remained involved in AFSA governance for much of his career, serving multiple terms on the association's governing board both prior to and after retirement.

Ambassador Cohen is the author of three books: “Intervening in Africa: Superpower Peacemaking in a Troubled Continent” (Macmillan, New York 2000); “The Mind of the African Strong Man: Conversations with Dictators, Statesmen and Father Figures” (New Academia, Washington D.C., 2015); and “Romance and Realpolitik: 78 Years of U.S. Diplomacy in Africa” (publication scheduled for last quarter of 2019).

Ambassador Cohen is married to the former Suzanne Karpman, who worked for the Voice of America as a French language correspondent during tours in Africa, and served as a French language instructor for the Foreign Service Institute and the Central Intelligence Agency during tours in Washington. They have two sons, Marc and Alain, who are entrepreneurs in technology.