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Breaking News: UM President Shalala to Retire

Longtime University of Miami President Donna Shalala announces her resignation following the current school year.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

In a surprising move, University of Miami President Donna Shalala has announced she will step down from the school she has presided over since 2001.

The former Clinton Cabinet Member and Presidential Medal of Freedom Winner is credited for enhancing the school's academic reputation as well as raising nearly a billion dollars for research.

Here is the letter in full:

September 8, 2014

To the University Community:

It is with gratitude and affection for the University that I share with you my decision to step down at the end of the 2014-2015 university year. A long time ago a friend advised me to always leave a job when you still love it. That is certainly the case here.

Collectively we have accomplished what we set out to do—secure the University of Miami’s place as the next great American research university. The senior team I have had the opportunity to lead is remarkable in their skill and brilliance. The trustees have my deepest gratitude for their courage in letting me take the University on a journey of excellence that was promising, but risky. It is so easy to stand still. Pursuing greatness is not for the meek or cautious. Our faculty is as gifted as any I have worked with in higher education. Their passion for discovery, great teaching, and patient care is extraordinary. Our staff is committed, skilled, loyal, and take great pride in their work. Our students…they have energized us and give us hope for our country and the world’s future. Our alumni, supporters, and donors have made us stronger and stuck with us through thick and thin.

One of the best aspects of this job has been living in Miami, a community I knew only from childhood trips to visit grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins during the holidays. This great community is maddening, delightful, and limitless in its vitality and promise. We have worked hard to be good neighbors and civic leaders. I am personally delighted to continue to be part of its extraordinary future. Like the University, it needs to always pursue excellence with a razor-sharp focus that only great communities deserve.

This is not a goodbye letter; we have work to do. I look forward to a spectacular year.

Some reaction:

Our take: For the University itself, this is a tremendous loss. There are those who will say that she did not do enough for athletics. But as an alum, I do not support this view. There has been many renovations during her stay in Coral Gables, including upgrades to the Hecht Athletic Center and more recently Greentree Field. Not to mention how strong she was during a near 3 year investigation of the school for the Nevin Shapiro scandal.  Furthermore there are more important things in the world than sports. Shalala helped make the campus a better place. Her successor will have very big shoes to fill.  All of us at SOTU wish her the best.

Additional Statement from UM Media Relations (Margot Winick)

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (September 8, 2014) – University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala announced today that she is stepping down at the end of the 2014-2015 university year (summer 2015) after 14 years of distinguished service.

President Shalala has also served as a professor of political science, teaching one of the University’s largest and most popular courses focusing on the politics and economics of health care, featuring such special guest lecturers as former U.S. President Bill Clinton. She plans to return to the faculty as a professor of political science and health policy.

“President Shalala’s tenure as the University of Miami’s fifth president has been a fortuitous and celebrated circumstance of the right leader at the right place at the right time,” noted Stuart A. Miller, Chair of the University of Miami Board of Trustees, UM law school alumnus, and Chief Executive Officer of Lennar Corp. “As we look ahead to building on President Shalala’s significant accomplishments, we will be appointing a Presidential Search Committee to be chaired by Richard D. Fain, Vice Chair of the Board and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. This will be an inclusive process and will seek valuable input from the greater University of Miami community,” said Miller. (For full text of Chair’s statement, click here.)

UM’s current era was launched in June 2001 with the naming of Shalala as the fifth president in the history of the institution. Her presidency has been marked by accelerated progress in all key areas—teaching and learning, the discovery of new knowledge, the delivery of cutting-edge medical care, service to the region and beyond, and fundraising. Under her leadership, UM rapidly advanced into the top-tier of American higher education, joining the nation’s finest research universities.

Few individuals are as accomplished or as dedicated to public service as President Shalala, who commands more than 40 years of experience as a professor, scholar, and administrator. She has held the position of Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and President of Hunter College of the City University of New York.

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

Under the Clinton administration President Shalala served as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services for eight years, the longest serving HHS Secretary in U.S. history.  In 2007, President George W. Bush handpicked President Shalala to co-chair with Senator Bob Dole the Commission on Care for Returning Wounded Warriors. In June of 2008, he presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian award.

Milestones during President Shalala’s tenure at the University of Miami include:

The University received 31,614 freshman applications for fall 2014—more than twice the 14,721 received in 2001. Between 2001 and 2013, the mean SAT score of incoming freshmen rose from 1190 to 1325, while those in the top 10 percent of their high school classes now compose more than 70 percent of our freshman class, up from 51 percent in 2001. The six-year graduation rate, another standard measure of success in higher education, has risen from 63 percent to 81 percent since 2001.

With almost 17,000 undergraduate and graduate students, diversity has never been higher. In Fall 2013 enrollment was 47 percent minority students, including 26 percent Hispanic or Latino, 8 percent black, and 13 percent Asian/Pacific Islander—up from 39 percent in 2000.

Faculty research and sponsored program expenditures have increased by more than 71 percent, from $202 million in 2001 to more than $346 million in Fiscal Year ’13 in support of more than 2,250 extramurally funded projects. For Fiscal Year ’13 the UM Miller School of Medicine was No. 38 in National Institutes of Health funding. NIH funding in 2013 reached $118 million, solidifying the Miller School as the top NIH-funded medical school in Florida. The UM School of Nursing and Health Studies is the top NIH-funded nursing school in the state

In 2003 the University announced Momentum: The Campaign for the University of Miami, the most far-reaching and ambitious comprehensive campaign in its history. The historic fundraising drive surpassed its $1 billion goal in January 2006, a year and a half ahead of schedule, and ended December 31, 2007, having raised $1.4 billion, the first university in Florida to successfully mount a billion-dollar campaign.

In 2012 the University launched Momentum2: The Breakthrough Campaign for the University of Miami, a $1.6 billion effort, and to date the campaign has raised $1.3 billion with more than 137,000 donors contributing. When completed the Momentum campaigns will represent an extraordinary $3 billion philanthropic legacy that has transformed the University and the South Florida community.

The University of Miami has hosted a wide variety of high-profile events during the Shalala years. Some 63 million people tuned in to a live broadcast of the 2004 Bush-Kerry presidential debate held on the Coral Gables campus; a few years later, UM and Univision Communications presented the first-ever internationally televised candidates’ forums targeting Spanish speakers.

Among the many other dignitaries and luminaries who have visited UM to speak during President Shalala’s tenure: the late poet Maya Angelou, columnist George Will, award-winning journalists Anderson Cooper, Thomas Friedman, and Fareed Zakaria, television host Rachel Maddow, filmmaker Spike Lee, novelist and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Supreme Court justices Sonia Sotomayor and Anthony Kennedy, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, primatologist Jane Goodall, and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón.

In 2010 the University hosted the Clinton Global Initiative University, and it will do so again in March 2015—the only university to be selected twice for this honor.

An independent study of UM’s economic impact conducted in 2012 found that the University has a total economic impact of $5.62 billion on Miami-Dade County and an impact of $6.1 billion on the tri-county (Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach) region. One of the largest employers in Miami-Dade County, the University is a major engine that contributes widely across the area, with its employment and expenditures driving further economic activity that affects multiple sectors in the economy.

President Shalala’s presidency has seen an unprecedented growth in facilities totaling almost $2 billion of new construction and comprising 2.7 million square feet of projects completed or in process, plus 1.7 million of existing square feet renovated.  Major projects on the Coral Gables campus include the BankUnited Center, Student Activities Center, University Village student housing, the Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence, and the Newman Alumni Center among others. Additions to the Miller School of Medicine campus include the Clinical Research Building, University of Miami Hospital, Biomedical Research Building, and UM Life Science and Technology Park. Next month the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science will dedicate the Alfred C. Glassell, Jr. SUSTAIN Building and Marine Technology & Life Sciences Seawater Complex.

President Shalala has become the consummate Miamian, deeply involved in its civic, business, and cultural life. Through her efforts as the leader of the region’s oldest university, she has helped advance Miami’s world-class status and raised the bar in the arts, education, health care, and community engagement. In 2014 she received the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s highest honor, the Sand in My Shoes Award.

In her letter announcing her plans to step down, President Shalala gave praise to the University of Miami family—students, faculty, staff, trustees, alumni, supporters, and donors: “Collectively we have accomplished what we set out to do—secure the University of Miami’s place as the next great American research university.”