Donna Shalala

Donna Shalala
5th President of the University of Miami
In office
June 1, 2001  August 16, 2015
Preceded by Edward Foote
Succeeded by Julio Frenk
18th United States Secretary of Health and Human Services
In office
January 22, 1993  January 20, 2001
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Louis Sullivan
Succeeded by Tommy Thompson
Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, Madison
In office
January 1, 1988  January 22, 1993
Preceded by Bernard Cohen
Succeeded by David Ward
Personal details
Born Donna Edna Shalala
(1941-02-14) February 14, 1941
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Miami University
Syracuse University
Religion Maronite Catholicism

Donna Edna Shalala (/ʃəˈllə/ shə-LAY-lə; born February 14, 1941) was the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 2001. She was the president of the University of Miami, a private university in Coral Gables, Florida, from 2001 through 2015. Previously, she was the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1988 to 1993. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, by President George W. Bush in June 2008. Shalala currently serves as the president of the Clinton Foundation.[1]

Early life and education

Shalala was born in Cleveland, Ohio, of Maronite Catholic Lebanese descent, the daughter of Edna Smith and James Abraham Shalala.[2] She has a twin sister, Diane Fritel. She graduated from West Technical High School and received a bachelor's degree, in 1962, from Western College for Women; which in 1976, merged with Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio.[3][4]

From 1962 to 1964, she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Iran. While there, she worked with other volunteers to construct an agricultural college.[5]

In 1970, she earned a Ph.D. from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York.[6]

Academic career

Shalala began her teaching career as a political science professor at Baruch College (part of CUNY), where she also was a member of the American Federation of Teachers union. In 1972 Shalala became a professor of politics and education at Teachers College, Columbia University, a job she held until 1979.[7] Concurrently, from 1977 to 1980, she served as the assistant secretary for policy development and research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Carter Administration.[8]

Shalala's first experience with academic administration came on October 8, 1980 when she became the 10th president of Hunter College, serving in this capacity until 1988.[9]

She next served as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Madison.[10] Under her chancellorship and with her support, the university adopted a broad speech code subjecting students to disciplinary action for communications that were perceived as hate speech. That speech code was later found unconstitutional by a federal judge.[11] Also while chancellor, Shalala supported passage of a revised faculty speech code broadly restricting "harmful" speech in both "noninstructional" and "instructional" settings. The faculty speech code was abolished ten years later, after a number of professors were investigated for alleged or suspected violations.[12]

She was the first woman to lead a Big Ten Conference school, and only the second woman in the country to head a major research university.[13]

As Madison chancellor, Shalala, with then athletic director Pat Richter, interviewed and hired football coach Barry Alvarez who went on to become Wisconsin's all-time leader in football wins, with numerous appearances by Wisconsin at the Rose Bowl.[14]

Secretary of Health and Human Services

Shalala during her tenure as the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Following a year serving as chair of the Children's Defense Fund (1992–1993), Shalala was appointed United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, in 1993, by President Bill Clinton.[15] She served in this role for all eight years of his administration, becoming the nation's longest serving HHS secretary. In 1996, Shalala was the designated survivor during Clinton's State of the Union address.[16]

In her role as HHS secretary, Shalala frequently drew criticism for her positions, which were seen by some as too liberal. The Washington Post labeled her "one of the most controversial Clinton Cabinet nominees".[11] She was also known for her fervent anti-drug stance. She was the first Lebanese-American to serve in a Cabinet position.[17]

University of Miami

Shalala created a UM fundraising campaign called "Momentum", designed to raise UM's endowment from approximately $750 million to $1 billion; the goal was later increased to $1.25 billion by the end of 2007. In February 2012 the University of Miami announced Momentum2: The Breakthrough Campaign for the University of Miami, with $906 million already raised at the time of the public launch. On October 26, 2012, UM announced that Momentum2 hit the $1 billion mark, on track to reach the fundraising goal of $1.6 billion in 2016.

Drawing on her experience after serving as Secretary of Health and Human Services, Shalala taught a course covering the United States healthcare system every spring semester.

Custodial wages strike

Shalala faced some criticism for her response to a nationally publicized custodial workers' strike at the University of Miami, which lasted from February 28 to May 1, 2006. Critics called UM's custodial workers among the lowest paid university-based custodians in the nation and alleged they were not earning a living wage. The strike prompted Shalala to raise wages. Shalala was also criticized for living in luxury while the custodians did not have health insurance.[18] Shalala criticized union organizer's tactics, including a sit-in that she said prevented students from attending classes.[18]

Honor society and departure

In the fall of 2007, Shalala was inducted into UM's Iron Arrow Honor Society.

On September 8, 2014, Shalala announced that she would be stepping down at the end of the 2014-2015 academic year.

Clinton Foundation

In 2015, Shalala was named to head the Clinton Foundation. She followed her tenure as president of the University of Miami with being named chief executive officer of the Foundation.[19] According to the New York Times, Chelsea Clinton helped persuade Shalala to leave the Miami position, move to New York and head the foundation.[20]


Following a September 2015 Clinton Global Initiative event held at the Sheraton New York hotel, Shalala fell ill. It was subsequently reported by a foundation statement that she had suffered a stroke.[20][21]

Other activities

Board member

Donna Shalala is currently serving on the Board of Directors of the U.S. Soccer Federation.[22] Shalala served as a member of the board of directors of Lennar Corporation from 2001-2012.[23][24] She served on the board of directors of Gannett Company from 2001 to 2011, retiring because of age limits.[25] The Chronicle of Higher Education has reported on the conflict of interest of Shalala sitting on boards of property development companies.[26]

Co-chair of Presidential Commission

On March 6, 2007 President George W. Bush named Shalala and Bob Dole to head a presidential commission called the President's Commission On Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors. The commission was formed in response to a growing outcry over the care of wounded outpatient soldiers.

The commission included seven other members, ranging from injured war veterans to the wife of a wounded staff sergeant who suffered burns across 70 percent of his body. Demands for corrective action arose after the Washington Post exposed living conditions in a decrepit Army-owned building just outside Walter Reed Hospital and highlighted obstacles and delays in the treatment of soldiers who suffered serious injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan.[27] The commission subsequently issued several recommendations for improvement of these facilities.

Civic activities

In 1985, Shalala became a founding member of EMILY's List, a political action committee that seeks to elect pro-choice Democratic women to office.[28] Shalala served from 2001-2007[23] on the board of the Albert Shanker Institute, a small, three-member staff organization named for the former head of the American Federation of Teachers. She is an honorary board member of the American Iranian Council, an organization that seeks to promote closer U.S. relations with Iran.[29] She served[23] on the board of directors for Gannett Company.

Shalala serves as a co-leader of the Nutrition and Physical Activity Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center.[30] She serves as a distinguished senior fellow in the Economic Studies Program and the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at the Brookings Institution.[31]


On June 19, 2008 Donna Shalala was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.[32] In 2010 she received the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights.[33] She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York in 2011.[34] In 2014, she was recognized by the Harry S Truman Library with the Harry S Truman Legacy of Leadership Award.[35] Shalala has been awarded more than 50 honorary degrees.[23]

She has been elected to the Council on Foreign Relations; National Academy of Education; the National Academy of Public Administration; the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; the American Philosophical Society; the National Academy of Social Insurance; the American Academy of Political and Social Science; and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.[34]

Countrywide Financial Loan Scandal

In June 2008, Conde Nast Portfolio reported that Shalala allegedly got multiple below-rate loans at Countrywide Financial because the corporation considered her an "FOA"--"Friend[s] of Angelo" (Countrywide Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo).[36]


  1. Amy Chozick (March 6, 2015). "Donna Shalala to Lead Clinton Foundation". The New York Times First Draft. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
  2. Frank Northen Magill (1995). Great lives from history: American women series, Volume 5. Salem Press.
  3. "Mergers in Higher Education" (PDF).
  4. "At Helm of Nation's Health, Donna Shalala Thrives | News | The Harvard Crimson". Retrieved 2016-06-17.
  5. "PeaceCorpsOnline web site". Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  6. CURRICULUM VITAE, DONNA E. SHALALA. University of Miami. Retrieved October 19, 2014.
  7. "Silhouettes of TC Today cover". Teachers College - Columbia University. Retrieved 2016-05-11.
  8. "Clinton Foundation President Donna Shalala to Address Graduates at Drexel's Commencement - DrexelNow". DrexelNow. Retrieved 2016-05-11.
  9. "Secretary Donna Shalala Speaks at the CATS Roundtable Radio Show - John Catsimatidis Official Site". John Catsimatidis Official Site. 2016-02-24. Retrieved 2016-05-11.
  10. "Past presidents and chancellors | Office of the Chancellor". Retrieved 2016-05-11.
  11. 1 2 "Donna Shalala biography". The Washington Post. December 15, 1999. Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  12. Alan Charles Kors from the July 1999 issue (March 1, 1999). ""Cracking the Speech Code," ''Reason'', July 1999". Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  13. "Donna Shalala,". Retrieved September 30, 2015.
  14. Ed Sherman from the. "She Left Wisconsin With a Rosy Outlook,". Retrieved September 30, 2015.
  15. "Clinton Foundation President Donna Shalala to Address Graduates at Drexel's Commencement - DrexelNow". DrexelNow. Retrieved 2016-06-17.
  16. "Politicos Gather for State of the Union, but 'Designated Survivor' Will Be in Hiding". ABC News. 2014-01-27. Retrieved 2016-06-17.
  17. "UM president Donna Shalala lauded for handling of NCAA investigation". miamiherald. Retrieved 2016-06-17.
  18. 1 2 Goodnough, ABBY; Steven Greenhouse (April 18, 2006). "Anger Rises on Both Sides of Strike at U. of Miami". New York Times. pp. A.18. ISSN 0362-4331.
  19. Nicholas, Peter; Reinhard, Beth. "Donna Shalala to Lead Clinton Foundation". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2016-04-14.
  20. 1 2 Haberman and, Maggie; Chozick, Amy (September 29, 2015). "Donna Shalala, President of Clinton Foundation, Has Stroke". New York Times. New York Times. Retrieved September 30, 2015.
  21. "Former UM president Donna Shalala suffers stroke". miamiherald. Retrieved 2016-04-14.
  22. Board of Directors - U.S. Soccer
  23. 1 2 3 4 Donna Shalala CV
  24. "Donna Shalala, Independent Director". Morningstar. Retrieved March 13, 2011.
  25. Clabaugh, Jeff (February 23, 2011). "Donna Shalala leaves Gannett board". Business Journal. Retrieved March 13, 2011.
  26. Conflicts Abound for College Chiefs on Corporate Boards - The Chronicle of Higher Education
  27. "PeaceCorpsOnline". PeaceCorpsOnline. Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  28. Vaida, Bara; Skalka, Jennifer (June 28, 2008). "Can EMILY's List Get Its Mojo Back?". National Journal. Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  29. "American Iranian Council web site". Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  30. Nutrition and Physical Activity Initiative, Bipartisan Policy Center
  31. McDuffee, Allen (April 2, 2012). "Donna Shalala, former HHS secretary, joins Brookings". The Washington Post.
  32. Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients
  33. Donna E. Shalala Honored With Nelson Mandela Award For Health And Human Rights | The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
  34. 1 2 President Donna E. Shalala’s Biography | University of Miami
  35. President Shalala Honored with Truman Award | News Releases | University of Miami
  36. Countrywide's Many 'Friends' Conde Nast Portfolio, June 12, 2008
Academic offices
Preceded by
Bernard Cohen
Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, Madison
Succeeded by
David Ward
Preceded by
Edward Foote
President of the University of Miami
Succeeded by
Julio Frenk
Political offices
Preceded by
Louis Sullivan
United States Secretary of Health and Human Services
Succeeded by
Tommy Thompson
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