October 27, 2020
Exit interview with UM President Donna Shalala

Photo: University of Miami

Miami-Dade Roundup

Exit interview with UM President Donna Shalala

After 14 years as president of the University of Miami, Donna Shalala, 73, will retire next year (although she plans to keep teaching at the university). Her tenure has seen the school move into the top 50 of U.S. News & World Report’s national college rankings and its sports teams shift into the Atlantic Coast Conference.Her administration also conducted two major fundraising campaigns: The $1.4-billion “Momentum” and the $1.6-billion “Momentum2.”

Florida Trend: Why retire now?

Donna Shalala: I actually wanted to do it four years ago, but because of the economic downturn, I made the decision that I would stay and I would finish a second campaign.Normally, I would have been out of here in 10 years because that’s about what my mindset is. … I’ve done everything that I think I can do with my talent level. The major decisions of the future have a lot to do with technology.We’re about to make some announcements about online education. We’ve invested millions in new IT systems and new systems to manage the place, which no one will see, but we’ve brought the place up to the 21st century, at least.

FT: How did you move the University of Miami into the top 50?

DS: Steady progress — there’s no quick way of doing this. It has to be a very disciplined, focused march. … We wanted to recruit world-class faculty and keep the very best faculty we could. … We wanted to recruit stronger students, and we did that. Third, we wanted to raise a lot of money. And we’ll have completed $3 billion in fundraising by sometime next year.

FT: What academic changes are you most proud of?

DS: All of our schools and colleges improved, and most recently, breaking down the silos between schools so that students could combine majors, could design their own majors, could take a series of interrelated courses. As you recruit better students, they demand flexibility because they’re interested in many things. So if you want to recruit better students, you’d better have the courses and the programs that they’re attracted to.

FT: You oversaw a lot of investment into UM’s Miller School of Medicine and its Uhealth medical care. Why focus on that?

DS: We wanted to make contributions in our community of Florida and south Florida. The best universities in this country have an array of programs, including medical schools. … Now, the difficulty there is predicting what’s going to happen in health care. … The key was recruiting leaders in the Miller School who knew what it was like to be at a world-class medical center and keeping the talented people we had, making sure they had a strategy and then supporting them. We did that across the board in the university, but most people recognize our clinical care and our research at the Miller School.

FT: What are you focusing on during the next few months?

DS: We want to finish up the campaign, we’ve got a lot of hiring to finish up, and there’s a lot of things I want to do for students, including finishing some new housing.… It’s the one thing I haven’t been able to finish. But the strategic plan is in place, and we will have the financing in place. The board of trustees is determined to get it done.



Miami-based medical device company Sanomedics makes one of the few thermometers that can take someone’s temperature without touching the person. The Centers for Disease Control, airports and hospitals began bombarding the company with orders for its Caregiver TouchFree thermometer in October in the midst of the Ebola scare, leading it to dramatically increase production. The TouchFree, which is FDA-approved, takes a person’s temperature by measuring infrared radiation when held up in front of the forehead.


Swire Properties promoted Linda Chu to CFO. Chu, who had been head of finance for the company’s Swire Hotels division, will be based in Miami.

Business Briefs

BAL HARBOUR — Lionstone Group and Flag Luxury Group acquired the One Bal Harbour Resort & Spa, which became the 10th Ritz-Carlton in Florida and was renamed Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour.

CORAL GABLES — Catalyst Pharmaceutical Partners announced a successful drug trial for Firdapse, which reduces symptoms for people with the rare muscle-weakening disease Lambert- Eaton myasthenic syndrome.

ISLAMORADA — Washington, D.C.-based Carlyle Group purchased the Postcard Inn Beach Resort at Holiday Isle and the La Siesta Resort. The company plans to spend about $18 million to renovate both hotels. Carlyle also combined the Islamorada Resort and Pelican Cove Resort & Marina, which it owns, with the two additional hotels to form the Islamorada Hotel Co.

MIAMI — Voters approved developer Jeff Berkowitz’s 1,000-foot SkyRise Miami observation tower on land behind Bayside Marketplace.Owner Midgard Management and Miami-based developer Newgard Development formed a partnership to convert downtown Miami’s One Flagler office building into office condos.Related Group paid $57.3 million to buy 2.8 acres in front of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts from Espacio USA. Related plans to build three towers with nearly 2 million square feet of retail and residential space. > Ladenburg Thalmann will pay $45 million in cash and four-year notes to acquire Knoxville, Tenn.-based Securities Service Network, an independent broker- dealer with $115 million in revenue and 450 independent financial advisers.

MIAMI BEACH — HFZ Capital Group will turn the 309-room Shore Club hotel into 85 condos and 100 hotel rooms. > The Shelborne Wyndham Grand in South Beach reopened after a $90-million renovation.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY — Latin American health care company Organización Sanitas Internacional will open three primary-care clinics next year in partnership with Florida Blue. The clinics will focus on recent immigrants from Latin America. > Interval Leisure Group acquired Hyatt Residential Group from Hyatt Hotels for $220 million; Interval and Hyatt also signed a license agreement giving Interval exclusive use of the Hyatt brand in shared ownership developments. New York-based venture capital firm Scout Ventures is opening a Miami office, its first outside New York. > The University of Miami sold some 88 acres to Palm Beach Gardens- based developer Ram. Ram has permission to build a 158,000-sq.-ft. Walmart, a shopping center and some 900 apartments on the site and agreed to set aside 40 acres as a preserve. Chemicals company Platform Specialty Products raised $410.9 million in a private stock placement in October and planned to raise another $240.6 million in a November private offering. For the first time in two years, Miami International Airport will have service from a low-cost air carrier this month when Frontier Airlines begins flights between MIA and four U.S. cities.

Tags: Miami-Dade

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