The University of Miami, in an effort to raise $1.6 billion, began the largest and most ambitious fundraising campaign of a Florida university.
“People want to be with winners,” Donna Shalala, president of the university, said. “They want to see the University of Miami do well. They want a world-class university in their community, and so I think people have made the extra effort for us.”
Shalala announced last week that over half of the money has already been raised.
The week finished with special visits to the university by two U.S. presidents.
Former President Bill Clinton, who is Shalala’s former boss, surprised students in Shalala’s U.S. Healthcare class on Monday.
“I told the students it was Presidents' Day, and they ought to have a president talk to them,” Shalala said. “Clinton graciously accepted my invitation.”
President Obama will visit students Thursday.
The University of Miami has made a steady climb to number 38 among America’s top universities, but has also seen some controversy.
Its football program has been under investigation by the NCAA for alleged impropriety between boosters and players.
“Integrity is everything,” said Shalala. “So it is my responsibility. The buck stops here at the end of the day, and I have to take responsibility for that and for explaining what happened and why it happened.”
The investigation is ongoing.
“There are interviews taking place,” Shalala said. “We are participating in those interviews. When it will get finished, I just can’t tell you.”
More recently, President Shalala made headlines when a question about a potential conflict of interest surfaced when it was reported that she joined two corporate boards headed by the board of trustees.
But Shalala said those allegations are related to the quick growth of the industry.
“It is not that what we have been doing in the past is illegal in anyway or even frowned upon by the major governing associations of American higher education,” Shalala said. “It is just that the world has changed and we have to change along with the world.”