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Former UW-Madison chancellor Donna Shalala elected to Congress

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Shalala made UW athletics great again.

The 8th Annual Elly Awards Hosted By The Women’s Forum Of New York - Inside Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for The Women’s Forum of New York

Former UW-Madison chancellor Donna Shalala’s impressive career will continue in Washington, as she defeated Republican Maria Elvira Salazar to win Florida’s 27th congressional district Tuesday night. Shalala will also be the oldest freshman congressperson at 77.

While chancellor at UW from 1988–93, Shalala oversaw a drastic turnaround in Wisconsin’s athletic program. Shalala hired Pat Richter to serve as the athletic director in 1989, who in turn brought Barry Alvarez to Madison in 1990. Under the leadership of Shalala and Richter, UW football and men’s basketball went from perennial losers to perennial winners.

Before and After Shalala

Team Winning Percentage 20 Years Before Shalala Winning Percentage 20 Years After Shalala
Team Winning Percentage 20 Years Before Shalala Winning Percentage 20 Years After Shalala
Football 42.99% 64.60%
Men's Basketball 41.86% 65.16%

The improvement in football and men’s basketball significantly helped stabilize the department, and Richter turned UW athletic’s $2.1 million deficit and decaying facilities into a program with an operating reserve and world-class facilities. This improvement continues to foster an environment for non-revenue-generating sports to thrive, such as cross country, track and field, soccer, women’s hockey, volleyball, etc.

Since her time at UW, Shalala served as the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services under the Clinton administration from 1993–2001 and was the president at the University of Miami from 2001–15.