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Campus & Community

Clinton Foundation President Donna Shalala to Address Graduates at Drexel’s Commencement

April 25, 2016

Photo of Donna Shalala

Donna E. Shalala, PhD, president of the Clinton Foundation, former president of the University of Miami and United States Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton, will address the class of 2016 at Drexel’s commencement on June 11 at Citizen’s Bank Park. This marks the first year Drexel will host a University-wide ceremony for the 1,500 graduating students.

Shalala has more than 40 years of experience as an accomplished scholar, teacher and administrator. Prior to her appointment at the Clinton Foundation, she served as president of the University of Miami. During her tenure, UM solidified its position among top U.S. research universities. The University’s two successful campaigns raised $3 billion in private support for the university’s endowment, academic and research programs and facilities.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed her U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services  where she served for eight years, becoming the longest serving HHS Secretary in U.S. 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. Prior to her serving as HHS Secretary, Shalala was the chancellor of University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1987-1993 and president of Hunter College from 1980-1987. She was the first woman to lead a Big Ten Conference school, and only the second woman in the country to head a major research university.

Shalala served in the Carter administration from 1977 to 1980 as Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 


Shalala received her AB from Western College for Women, and her PhD from Syracuse University. She served as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Iran from 1962 to 1964.


In 2007, President George W. Bush handpicked Shalala to co-chair the Commission on Care for Returning Wounded Warriors, to evaluate how wounded service members transition from active duty to civilian society. In 2009, she was appointed chair of the committee on the future of nursing at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.


Shalala has more than four dozen honorary degrees and a host of other honors, including the 1992 National Public Service Award and the 1994 Glamour magazine Woman of the Year Award. In 1992, BusinessWeek named her one of the top five managers in higher education and U.S. News & World Report named her one of “America’s Best Leaders” in 2005. 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, Shalala was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, N.Y. and in 2014, she was recognized by the Harry S. Truman Library with the Harry S. Truman Legacy of Leadership Award.


One of the most honored academics of her generation, Shalala has been elected to seven national academies: the National Academy of Education; the National Academy of Public Administration; the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; the American Philosophical Society; the National Academy of Social Insurance; the American Academy of Political and Social Science; the National Academy of Medicine; and the Council on Foreign Relations.

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Niki Gianakaris