March 20, 2004 - Grand Forks Herald: Former Clinton cabinet member Iran RPCV Donna Shalala to address medical school grads May 8

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Iran: Peace Corps Iran : The Peace Corps in Iran: March 20, 2004 - Grand Forks Herald: Former Clinton cabinet member Iran RPCV Donna Shalala to address medical school grads May 8

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Former Clinton cabinet member Iran RPCV Donna Shalala to address medical school grads May 8

Former Clinton cabinet member Iran RPCV Donna Shalala to address medical school grads May 8

Former Clinton cabinet member Iran RPCV Donna Shalala to address medical school grads May 8

UND: Another big-name speaker

Former Clinton cabinet member Donna Shalala to address medical school grads May 8

By David Dodds

Herald Staff Writer

UND keeps reeling in the big-name speakers to address its graduates.

The UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences on Friday announced that Donna Shalala, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Clinton and current president of the University of Miami, will be the keynote speaker at the medical school's spring commencement ceremony.

The revelation comes on the heels of an equally big announcement Tuesday that Sean O'Keefe, the top official at the National Aeronautic and Space Administration, would be delivering the main address at UND's general commencement May 15 in the Alerus Center.

"It's kind of neat that every May, we've been able to bring a national caliber speaker for commencement," said UND President Charles Kupchella, "somebody who comes from the outside and who has led something important that relates to a division of this university.

"A secondary reason for doing it is that it always helps to have folks like this know about us."

Big-name tradition

UND hosts five graduation ceremonies each year between its summer, winter and spring commencements, as well as separate spring events for its medical and law schools. This year, about 2,200 students will graduate from UND.

Kupchella said its become a bit of a tradition at UND that summer graduates are addressed by a distinguished member of the school faculty, the winter speech is handled by a distinguished alum, and in the spring, more famous names greet the students.

In recent years, UND has attracted the likes of often-rumored presidential hopeful Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and Nancy Dickey, former president of the American Medical Association.

Shalala's address is set for 1:30 p.m. May 8 in the Chester Fritz Auditorium, where 54 medical school students will receive diplomas.

Finally coming

Shalala arguably is the highest profile of UND's graduation speakers to date, having served two terms in Clinton's cabinet in a position often in the public eye. As secretary of Health and Human Services, she oversaw a $600 billion budget.

"We're really excited to get her to come here," said H. David Wilson, medical school dean. "She is really an outstanding speaker."

Kupchella said that UND officials have been trying to get Shalala as a graduation speaker for a few of years, but it seemed that UND's events always conflicted with ceremonies going on at her own school in Miami at which she had to attend.

"I said, 'if you can't do the main (commencement), then how about doing one for the medical school,'" Kupchella said, "and since she was the secretary of health, that seemed like a home run."

N.D. connection

Ken Mellem, a UND alumnus and member of the UND Foundation board of directors, ran into Shalala at a meeting and discovered that the former presidential cabinet member had season tickets to UND hockey games - sort of.

Turns out, Shalala had bought season tickets as a gift for her twin sister, Diane Fritel, and her husband, Robert, who've lived on a farm near Wolford, N.D., since 1972.

Mellem quickly told UND officials of Shalala's North Dakota connection, and the pursuit began to get her to be a graduation speaker.

Fritel said she knew her sister, Donna, had been asked to speak at UND and that she would be coming soon.

The sisters, who are natives of Cleveland, usually like to trade visits every other year around holidays. But Fritel said it's been about four years since Shalala has been to North Dakota and visited them on the farm.

"We might head down to Grand Forks to see her when she's there," Fritel said.

Impressive resume

Shalala was appointed by Clinton to be Secretary of Health and Human Services in 1993, and served in that post longer than anyone in history.

Shalala became president of the University of Miami in June 2001, her third stint running a school. She also had been president of Hunter College of the City University of New York and chancellor of the University of Wisconsin.

From 1977 to 1980, Shalala was an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. And before that, she was director and treasurer of the Municipal Assistance Corporation for the City of New York, helping to reverse that city's financial collapse.

Shalala was one of the nation's first Peace Corps volunteers, serving in Iran from 1962 to 1964. She also has more than three dozen honorary degrees.
Reach Dodds at 780-1110, (800) 477-6572, extension 110, or at

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Story Source: Grand Forks Herald

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