UM theater arts students serenaded President Donna E. Shalala at the Sand in My Shoes Awards dinner.
From UM News
MIAMI, Fla. (February 19, 2014) — University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala officially joined the pantheon of Miami’s greatest leaders last week, when the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce recognized her significant contributions to the community with its highest honor, the Sand in My Shoes Award.
Saying she was honored to follow in the sandy footsteps of so many great Miamians, Shalala accepted the award that recognizes individuals whose commitment to and strategic vision for South Florida have enriched it immeasurably by issuing a call for the community to continue reaching beyond its grasp.
“Our future challenge is to continue to be ambitious—to reach for the stars—to be the best, do not compromise on excellence,” Shalala told 800-plus admirers gathered at the Hilton Downtown Miami for the February 18 ceremony. “I believe Miami is the next great world city with universities and colleges to match. We must not compromise on greatness.”
Chamber chairman Alberto Dosal said the chamber was honored to recognize Shalala for the “undeniable impact” she has had on the University of Miami and the entire community.
“She has raised the profile of the U nationally and internationally and, in turn, that of our city, and the chamber is elated to celebrate her outstanding achievements by presenting her with our most prestigious award,” Dosal said.
Accompanied by her mother, sister, brother-in-law, and Sebastian, Shalala also was feted by UM students from the Band of the Hour, which provided the fanfare, and from the Theatre Arts Department. Singing and dancing, the student actors surprised the president with a musical tribute that spilled from the stage into the audience, where they serenaded her with a slightly revised show tune, “There Is Nothing Like Our Dame.”
As the chamber noted in its official announcement, Shalala’s accomplishments and contributions are legendary. Since arriving in Miami in 2001, the nation’s longest serving U.S. secretary of health and human services has solidified UM’s standing as one of the nation’s top 50 research universities, elevated the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine’s mission of saving lives and protecting health as an anchor of the Miami Health District, and strengthened one of Miami-Dade County’s largest private employers. The University has a $6.1 billion economic impact on the tri-county regions of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
The chamber also cited her leadership in ensuring that the U continues to grow as an education powerhouse by raising an unprecedented $1.4 billion during Momentum: The Campaign for the University of Miami and launching its successor Momentum2: The Breakthrough Campaign for the University of Miami. The new campaign already has raised nearly 80 percent of its $1.6 billion goal.
As the chamber also noted, Shalala undoubtedly ranks among Greater Miami’s most honored residents. She has more than four dozen honorary degrees and a host of other awards, including the 1992 National Public Service Award.
In 2008 President George W. 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.
The chamber began bestowing its Sand in My Shoes Award in 1981. Past recipients include Shalala’s predecessor as UM president, Edward T. “Tad” Foote II, who received it in 2000, and Susan and Leonard Miller, stalwart supporters of the U, who received it the following year.