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Donna Shalala to Address the Class of 2016

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    UM News

    Donna E. Shalala

    Donna E. Shalala

    CORAL GABLES, Fla. (December 1, 2016)—The nearly 1,000 University of Miami students set to receive their newly minted degrees at the Watsco Center on Thursday, December 15 will hear advice from a familiar and beloved figure on campus: UM’s immediate past president and the nation’s longest-serving secretary of health and human services, Donna E. Shalala.

    In addition to delivering the commencement address, Shalala—a distinguished scholar, political scientist, administrator, and public servant who currently directs the Clinton Foundation’s philanthropic efforts around the world—will receive an honorary degree for her extraordinary leadership in bettering our institution, our nation, and the world.

    During her 14 years as UM’s fifth—and first female—president, Shalala led the charge to elevate every aspect of the U—increasing research expenditures by 62 percent; establishing UHealth-the University of Miami Health System and solidifying the Miller School of Medicine as Florida’s top NIH-funded medical school; launching nearly $2 billion in new construction, including the student center that now bears her name; raising an unprecedented $3 billion in two Momentum campaigns for scholarships, academic and research programs, and facilities; and elevating UM’s iconic split-U logo from one of the most recognizable college athletic brands to a symbol of excellence throughout the University.

    Before joining the U, Shalala strengthened a range of U.S. and international institutions, earning a host of honors and shattering many glass ceilings. After earning her B.A. at Western College for Women in 1962, she joined President John F. Kennedy’s new Peace Corps, teaching at an agriculture college in Iran and earning the respect of men unaccustomed to women having a say.

    She later earned her Ph.D. degree from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and held tenured professorships at Columbia University, The City University of New York (CUNY), and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, rising to become president of CUNY’s Hunter College from 1980 to 1987 and chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1987 to 1993—the first woman to head a Big 10 university.

    Tapped as President Bill Clinton’s secretary 
of health and human services in 1993, and serving through both of his terms, she earned The Washington Post’s admiration as “one of the most successful government managers of modern times.”

    In 2007, while juggling her duties at UM, she answered President George W. Bush’s call to co-chair the Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors with former U.S. Senator Bob Dole. Two years later, she led the Institute of Medicine’s Initiative on the Future of Nursing. Her committee’s 2010 report remains the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s most downloaded health report.

    A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Shalala is one of the most honored academics of her generation. A 2011 inductee into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, she has been awarded more than four dozen honorary degrees and elected to seven national academies. She has received numerous other honors, including the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, bestowed by President Bush in 2008 for helping “more Americans live lives of purpose and dignity.’’

    More recently, Shalala, who remains trustee professor of political science and health policy at UM, received the 2010 Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights, the 2014 Harry S. Truman Legacy of Leadership Award, and the National Academy of Medicine’s 2016 David Rall Medal.

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