Donna Edna Shalala, born February 14, 1941, in Cleveland, Ohio is of Maronite Catholic Lebanese descent. Her father sold real estate for a living, and her mother was one of the first Lebanese-Americans to graduate from Ohio State University.
Shalala graduated from West Tech High School and received her bachelor's degree in 1962 from Western College for Women. She served as a volunteer in the Peace Corps in Iran from 1962 to 1964, where she worked with other volunteers to construct an agricultural college. Shalala received a Master Degree and then, in 1970, a Doctorate Degree from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, New York.
At the University of Miami, Shalala created a UM fundraising campaign called "Momentum," designed to raise UM's endowment from approximately $750 million to $1 billion; the goal was later increased to $1.25 billion by the end of 2007.
Every spring semester at the University of Miami, Shalala teaches a course covering the United States' healthcare system. She serves on the board of the Albert Shanker Institute, a small three-member staff organization named for the former head of the American Federation of Teachers. She is an honorary board member of the American Iranian Council, an organization that seeks to promote closer U.S. relations with Iran.
Throughout her incredible career, Shalala served as Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Madison between 1988 and 1993. During her term as Chancellor, the university included 42,000 students, employed 16,500 people, and had an annual budget of $1 billion.
Shalala was also the first woman to lead a Big Ten Conference school, and only the second woman in the country to head a major research university at the time. She also served as President of the University of Miami, a private university in Coral Gables, Florida, from 2001 to 2015.
She currently serves as the U.S. Representative for Florida's 27th Congressional District since 2019. This is her second political appointment as a member of the Democratic Party. She previously served as the 18th United States Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton between 1993 and 2001.