Shalala, Donna (Edna)(1941– ) political scientist, educator, cabinet officer; born in Cleveland, Ohio. Of Lebanese descent, she took her B.A. from Western College for Women (Oxford, Ohio) (1962) and then spent two years with the Peace Corps in Iran. She then earned her M.A. and Ph.D. (1970) from Syracuse; while there she participated in programs that taught foreign students and Peace Corps staff. She taught at Bernard Baruch College (N.Y.C.) (1970–72) and then at Teachers College of Columbia (1972–79); she also served with the Municipal Assistance Corporation (1975–77), which helped restore financial stability to New York City. She was assistant secretary for political development and research in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (1977–80). In 1980 she became president of Hunter College (part of the City University of New York City)—the youngest woman ever to head a major college; she greatly increased its endowment, enlarged its faculties, upgraded its student body, and enlarged its building program. In 1988 she moved on to become the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin: Madison, only the second woman (after Hanna Holborn Gray at the University of Chicago) to head a major American research university; she also became a professor of political science and educational policy studies. One of her most publicized programs there was the so-called Madison Plan to deal with racism on campus. In 1993 she was appointed secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services by President Clinton.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.