Donna Shalala Biography

Donna Shalala

educator, administrator, public official
Born: 2/14/1941
Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio

Though she's best known as the former secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (1993–2000) under President Clinton, Shalala has had a long career in education and public service. After graduating from Ohio's Western College in 1962, Shalala did a two-year stint in the Peace Corps, serving in Iran. She then enrolled in Syracuse University, receiving a master's degree (1968) and a Ph.D. (1970) in social science. She spent the next nine years teaching political science at Bernard Baruch College and Columbia Teachers College. In 1975, while still teaching, she became the director and treasurer of New York City's Municipal Assistance Corp., and helped to lift the city out of near financial collapse.

Shalala served under President Carter as assistant secretary for policy research and development at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where she worked to establish women's shelters, create mortgage credits for women, and promote anti-discrimination legislation.

In 1980 Shalala left public service for academia, becoming the president of Hunter College. She markedly increased the number of women and minority students and faculty members. She left New York in 1988 to become chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, one of the nation's largest universities. She was the first woman to helm a Big 10 school. Her Madison Plan successfully recruited minority students and faculty. In 2001, she left the frozen north to become president of the University of Miami.

As secretary of Health and Human Services, Shalala expanded Head Start, expanded AIDS research, sought universal immunizations for children, and reformed welfare.