Regents appoint Janet Napolitano as UC's first woman president

Homeland Security chief, two-term Arizona governor takes over in September as the University of California's 20th president

Janet Napolitano
Janet Napolitano, the 20th president of the University of California

The University of California Board of Regents July 18 appointed Janet Napolitano, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and a two-term governor of Arizona, as the 20th president of the University of California.

Napolitano, the first female president in UC's 145-year history, succeeds Mark G. Yudof, who steered the university through the depths of California's financial crisis that led to sharp cutbacks in state support for public higher education.

Yudof, 68, served for more than five years and will remain on the job until Napolitano begins her tenure in late September. Napolitano was appointed during a special meeting of the board following a recommendation by the regents' special search committee last week.

"I am humbled by your support and look forward to working with you to build further on the excellence of UC," Napolitano said after the regents appointed her president.

Unanimous choice

Napolitano, 55, an accomplished public sector leader with a long-standing interest in education, was the search committee's unanimous choice from among more than 300 prospective candidates. As UC's president, she will oversee 10 campuses and five medical centers — plus a new medical school at UC Riverside — as well as three affiliated national laboratories and a statewide agriculture and natural resources program.

The University of California, widely considered the nation's premier public university system, enrolls more than 234,000 students, employs about 208,000 faculty and staff, and counts more than 1.6 million living alumni. Its annual operating budget stands at more than $24 billion.

UC Regent Sherry Lansing, who chaired the presidential search committee, called Napolitano a transformative leader and tireless champion for the life-changing opportunities that education provides. She and other regents praised her intellectual curiosity, political acumen, personal dynamism and willingness to tackle complicated issues as attributes that will serve her — and the University of California — well.

"As governor of Arizona, Napolitano was a strong advocate for public education, from K-12 to the university level," said UC Regents Chair Bruce Varner. "She appreciates the importance of public research universities, faculty scholarship and research, and UC's role in shaping California.

"I am confident that she has the background and attributes needed to build upon the excellent work of her predecessor, Mark G. Yudof, and to lead the university forward to even greater achievements."

President Barack Obama, who chose Napolitano to head Homeland Security — the third largest federal department — praised her remarkable career of public service after it was announced she was leaving his cabinet to lead the University of California. He emphasized her leadership skills, tireless work ethic, judgment and advice, as well as the value of her friendship.

Santa Clara University valedictorian

Napolitano was born in New York City and grew up in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Albuquerque, N.M., before coming to California to attend college. She earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Santa Clara University, where she was named the university's first female valedictorian. She also won a Truman Scholarship, a prestigious fellowship for college students who have demonstrated leadership and an interest in government or public service.

After earning her law degree from the University of Virginia, she went to Arizona in 1983 to serve as a clerk for Judge Mary M. Schroeder of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and later practiced law in Phoenix at the firm of Lewis and Roca, where she became a partner in 1989. She was the first female attorney general of Arizona, from 1998 to 2003, and served as U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona from 1993 to 1997.

Napolitano was twice elected governor of Arizona, serving from 2003 to 2009, and was named one of the top five governors in the country by Time magazine. As the first woman to chair the National Governors Association, she launched the "Innovation America" initiative to align K-12 and higher education curricula to better prepare students for a global economy and strengthen the nation's competitiveness by improving its capacity to innovate.

At the Department of Homeland Security, she has championed cutting-edge research and development, investing more than $2.2 billion in state-of-the-art solutions at national labs and universities across the country to protect people and critical infrastructure.

Under her leadership, Homeland Security also has strengthened its outreach efforts to academic institutions through the establishment of the Office of Academic Engagement; and she created the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council, involving leadership from more than 20 universities and colleges around the country.

Immigration reform advocate

Napolitano has repeatedly testified about the need for comprehensive immigration reform and, earlier this year, she served as the Obama administration's sole witness in the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform bill. She also testified before the Senate in support of the Dream Act and defended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals process in a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee.

UC's Special Committee to Consider the Selection of a President, assisted by the national executive search firm Isaacson, Miller, was involved in recruiting, screening and interviewing candidates for the university's top administrative position.

In addition to Varner and Lansing, the immediate past Board of Regents chair, the committee members were regents Richard Blum, Russell S. Gould, George Kieffer, Bonnie Reiss and Fred Ruiz. Jonathan Stein (student regent) and Ronald Rubenstein (alumni regent) also served on the committee. Gov. Jerry Brown was an ex officio member. An academic advisory committee was appointed to assist the regents' special committee. Student, staff and alumni advisory committees joined the Academic Advisory Committee in making recommendations on the selection criteria.

As UC president, Napolitano will receive a base salary of $570,000. Her predecessor's annual base salary was $591,084, plus an auto allowance of $8,916. She also will receive an auto allowance of $8,916. Her salary is below the 25th percentile of cash compensation for comparable systemwide university presidents, which stands at $617,000. That means more than 75 percent of university system leaders nationally earn more than her annual salary.

As a condition of her employment and for the convenience of the university, Napolitano will be required to live in housing leased by UC or later, if one becomes available, a university-owned home.

She also will receive a one-time relocation fee of $142,500 which is 25 percent of her annual base salary. Under UC policy, this amount is intended to reimburse one-time and ongoing, unreimbursed expenses associated with the transition and will be paid as a lump sum. If Napolitano leaves her position within four years, these funds must be repaid to the university according to the following schedule: 100 percent if separation occurs within the first year of employment, 60 percent if separation occurs within the second year of employment, 30 percent if separation occurs within the third year of employment, and 10 percent if separation occurs within the fourth year of employment.

Napolitano will receive standard health and retirement benefits, and a contribution of 5 percent of her salary to the Senior Management Supplemental Benefit Program. By virtue of her appointment beginning after July 1, 2013, she will be included under the new tier of the UC Retirement Program.