Undergraduate commencement speaker
Honorary degree: Doctor of Public Service
Janet Napolitano is the 20th president of the University of California, having taken office in September 2013. She leads a university system with 10 campuses, five medical centers, three affiliated national laboratories, and a statewide agriculture and natural resources program. The UC system has more than 234,000 students, about 208,000 faculty and staff, more than 1.6 million living alumni and an annual operating budget of more than $24 billion.
Napolitano is a distinguished public servant with a record of leading large, complex organizations at the federal and state levels. She served as Secretary of Homeland Security from 2009–13, as governor of Arizona from 2003-09, as attorney general of Arizona from 1998–2003, and as U.S. attorney for the District of Arizona from 1993–97. She began her career in 1983 as a clerk for Judge Mary M. Schroeder of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and practiced at the law firm of Lewis & Roca in Phoenix, where she became a partner in 1989.
As the nation’s third Secretary of Homeland Security, Napolitano headed a department comprised of 22 agencies and directorates and whose missions include counterterrorism, border security, immigration, cybersecurity, and disaster response and recovery. The department supports 12 Centers of Excellence through a consortium of hundreds of universities generating ideas for new security technologies.
As governor of Arizona, Napolitano focused on education, from pre-kindergarten through public higher education. She was the first woman to chair the National Governors Association and was named one of the nation’s top five governors by Time magazine. Forbes magazine recently named her as one of the 10 most powerful women in the world.
The recipient of numerous awards and honors, Napolitano was awarded the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service by the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars at the Smithsonian Institution in 2006. In 2012, she received the Anti-Defamation League’s William and Naomi Gorowitz Institute Service Award, which is given for outstanding achievements in combating terrorism, extremism, and injustice.
A New York City native, Napolitano grew up in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Albuquerque, N.M., where her father was dean of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. She earned a bachelor of arts (summa cum laude in Political Science) in 1979 from Santa Clara University, where she was Phi Beta Kappa, a Truman Scholar, and the university’s first female valedictorian. She received her juris doctor in 1983 from the University of Virginia School of Law.