Donna Shalala

Donna Shalala
Donna Shalala
5th President of the University of Miami
Assumed office
June 1, 2001[1]
Preceded by Edward T. Foote II
18th Secretary of Health and Human Services
In office
January 22, 1993 – January 20, 2001
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Louis W. Sullivan
Succeeded by Tommy Thompson
Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison
In office
Preceded by Bernard Cecil Cohen
Succeeded by David Ward
Personal details
Born February 14, 1941 (1941-02-14) (age 70)
Cleveland, Ohio
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Western College for Women
Syracuse University
Religion Maronite Catholic

Donna Edna Shalala (play /ʃəˈllə/ shə-lay-lə; born February 14, 1941) served for eight years as Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton and has been president of the University of Miami, a private university in Coral Gables, Florida, since 2001. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, by President George W. Bush in June 2008.


Early life

Shalala was born in Cleveland, Ohio to Maronite Catholic Lebanese immigrant parents and has a twin sister, Diane Fritel. She graduated from West Tech High School and received her bachelor's degree in 1962 from Western College for Women (which, in 1976, was merged with Miami University in Oxford, Ohio).

She served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Iran from 1962–64, where she worked with other volunteers to construct an agricultural college.[2]

She received a Master's and then, in 1970, a Doctorate degree from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York.

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. 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.

Shalala's first experience with academic administration came in 1980 when she became the 10th President of Hunter College, serving in this capacity until 1988.

She next served as Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. 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.[3] 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.[4]

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. 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 first female designated survivor during President Clinton's State of the Union address.

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."[5] She was also known for her fervent anti-drug stance. She was the first Arab-American to serve in a Cabinet position.

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.

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

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

Custodial wages strike

Shalala was criticized for her handling of a nationally-publicized custodial workers' strike at the University of Miami which lasted from February 28 to May 1, 2006. Critics said that UM's custodial workers were among the lowest paid university-based custodians in the nation and were not earning a living wage until the strike prompted Shalala to raise wages. Shalala was also criticized for living in luxury while the custodians did not even have health insurance.[6] Shalala criticized union organizer's tactics, including a sit-in that she said prevented students from attending classes.[6]

Nevin Shapiro allegations

As school president, she is involved in the Nevin Shapiro sports recruiting scandal which broke in August 2011. Shapiro, who is convicted of a $930 million Ponzi scheme, allegedly provided cash, goods, prostitutes, and assorted favors to University of Miami football players and even purchased a yacht on which sex parties were held, again including prostitutes. 72 players have been implicated. Included in the case is a photograph of Shalala with Shapiro and Miami basketball coach Frank Haith receiving a $50,000 check from Shapiro in 2008. In an interview with Time magazine earlier in August 2011, Shalala is quoted as saying that such depravity "would not have lasted two minutes under me," and that under her leadership there would be "no tolerance for breaking the rules."[7]

U.S News Rankings

During Shalala's tenure at the University of Miami, the school received its highest rankings from U.S. News & World Report since it was founded eighty-six years ago. In 2011, the Miami was ranked #38 in the nation, jumping nine spots from it's #47 ranking in 2010. During the same period, Miami has also risen to the #1 University in Florida, passing other schools such as Florida State, University of Central Florida, and University of Florida.

Other activities

Board member

Shalala has served as a member of the board of directors of Lennar Corporation since April 2001.[8] She served on the board of directors of Gannett Company from 2001 to 2011, retiring because of age limits.[9]

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.[10] The commission subsequently issued several recommendations for improvement of these facilities.

Civic activities

Shalala serves 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.[11] She is 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.[12]

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).[13]


  1. ^ "President Donna E. Shalala’s Biography | University of Miami". June 1, 2001. Retrieved September 23, 2011. 
  2. ^ "PeaceCorpsOnline web site". Retrieved September 23, 2011. 
  3. ^ "''The Washington Post'', Donna Shalala biography at ''The Washington Post''". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 23, 2011. 
  4. ^ Alan Charles Kors from the July 1999 issue (March 1, 1999). ""Cracking the Speech Code," ''Reason'', July 1999". Retrieved September 23, 2011. 
  5. ^ The Washington Post. December 15, 1999. Retrieved May 1, 2010. 
  6. ^ a b 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 03624331. 
  7. ^ "Miami's Football Scandal Clouds the Progress of a School and a City". Time. August 17, 2011.,8599,2089231,00.html#ixzz1VPVo8LUq. 
  8. ^ "Donna Shalala, Independent Director". Morningstar. Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  9. ^ Clabaugh, Jeff (February 23, 2011). "Donna Shalala leaves Gannett board". Business Journal. Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  10. ^ "PeaceCorpsOnline". PeaceCorpsOnline. Retrieved September 23, 2011. 
  11. ^ "American Iranian Council web site". Retrieved September 23, 2011. 
  12. ^ [1] "Nutrition and Physical Activity Initiative"
  13. ^ Countrywide's Many 'Friends' Conde Nast Portfolio, June 12, 2008

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
Bernard Cecil Cohen
Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Madison
Succeeded by
David Ward
Preceded by
Tad Foote II
President of the University of Miami
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Louis W. Sullivan
United States Secretary of Health and Human Services
Served under: Bill Clinton

January 22, 1993 – January 20, 2001
Succeeded by
Tommy Thompson

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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