Donna E. Shalala has spent her entire life fighting to improve the lives of others. A lifelong Democrat, she has advocated tirelessly for women’s rights, civil rights, increased access to health care, better education and schools and a clean, sustainable environment.
Donna was born in Cleveland, Ohio to migrants from Lebanon. Her family moved to the United States to pursue the American Dream. She understands first-hand the hard work and dedication that defines the lives of immigrants trying to provide a better life for their family, as her immigrant grandparents and parents did for her and her twin sister.
Donna received her degree in history from Western College for Women and earned her Ph.D. from The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. 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.
President Carter tapped Donna to serve as the Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. One of her major accomplishments was placing, in 1979, the first ever solar panels on the roof of the White House, exemplifying her long-standing commitment to protecting the environment and promoting the use of renewable energy before it was the mainstream thing to do.
Donna was appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve as the 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. During her tenure at HHS Donna fought to create, implement and oversee the Children’s Healthcare Insurance Program, currently covering over 7.6 million children throughout the country as well as doubling the budget of the National Institute of Health and securing the highest immunization rates in American history.
At the end of her tenure, a Washington Post article described her as “one of the most successful government managers of modern times.” In 2008, the Council on Excellence in Government named her one of the greatest public servants of the past 25 years.
From 2001 to 2015 Donna served as the President of the University of Miami. During her tenure, UM solidified its position among top U.S. research universities and raised billions of dollars in private support for student scholarships, academic and research programs and facilities. She continues to serve as the Trustee Professor of Political Science and Health Policy at the University of Miami.
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. Donna believes it is our duty as a nation to provide the best care for our women and men in uniform and support our veterans and their families.
In 2008, President George W. Bush awarded Donna Shalala the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor where she was recognized for her, “leadership and determination to ensure that all Americans can enjoy lives of hope, promise and dignity.”
While on a leave of absence from the University of Miami, Donna served as President of the Clinton Foundation from June 2015 to March 2017. This position allowed her to continue working towards improving global health, increasing opportunity for girls and women, reducing childhood obesity and preventable diseases, creating economic opportunity and growth both at home and abroad, and helping address the effects of climate change.
Donna has lived in Pinecrest and Coral Gables for 17 years and is unapologetic in her love for South Florida’s natural beauty, its rich culture and its diverse people.
Donna’s extensive experience, shows she is a born leader and fighter that has what it takes to get things done. In times like these, when so many of our values are under attack and so much of the progress we have fought for is under threat, Miami needs someone in Washington who is ready to step up to the plate and make things happen on day one.
Donna Shalala is that person.