Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Donna Shalala received her A.B. degree in history from Western College for Women. One of the country’s first Peace Corps Volunteers, she served in Iran from 1962 to 1964. She earned her Ph.D. degree from The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and has held tenured professorships at Columbia University, the City University of New York (CUNY), and the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She served as President of Hunter College of the City University of New York from 1980 to 1987 and as Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1987 to 1993. She Also served as President of the University of Miami from 2001 through 2015.
Shalala served in the Carter administration from 1977-80 as Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In 1993 President Clinton appointed her U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) where she served for eight years, becoming the longest serving HHS Secretary in U.S. history. At the end of her tenure as HHS Secretary, The Washington Post described her as “one of the most successful government managers of modern times.”
In 2007, President George W. Bush handpicked Shalala to co-chair with Senator Bob Dole the Commission on Care for Returning Wounded Warriors, to evaluate how wounded service members transition from active duty to civilian society. In 2009 she was appointed chair of the Committee on the Future of Nursing at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.
Donna Shalala has more than four dozen honorary degrees and a host of other honors, including the 1992 National Public Service Award, the 1994 Glamour magazine Woman of the Year Award; in 1992, Business Week named her one of the top five managers in higher education; in 2005, she was named one of “America’s Best Leaders” by U.S. News & World Report; in 2008, President Bush presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award; and in 2010 she received the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights, which recognizes individuals for outstanding dedication to improving the health and life chances of disadvantaged populations in South Africa and internationally. In 2011, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York.
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.