Donna Shalala assumed the office of chancellor in January 1988, becoming the second woman to lead a major research university and the first woman head of a Big Ten university. She initiated the Madison Plan to attempt to recruit and hire minorities and was a strong advocate for UW athletics.
Shalala received her AB degree in history from Western College for Women in 1962, served in the Peace Corps in Iran, and received her PhD from The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 1970. She taught at Bernard M. Baruch College and Columbia University before becoming a director and treasurer of the Municipal Assistance Corporation, established to restore the financial health of New York City.
In January 1977 Shalala became assistant secretary for policy development and research of the Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Carter, a position she held until 1980 when she became president of Hunter College. Shalala was president at Hunter until she came to Madison. She stepped down as chancellor in January 1993 to become secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services under President Clinton, a post she held for eight years.
In June 2001 Shalala became president of the University of Miami.