WASHINGTON, July 12 (RIA Novosti) – The first woman to head the US Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, announced Friday she will leave her cabinet post and head west to become the first woman to lead the 10-campus University of California (UC) system in its 145-year history.
“After four plus years of focusing on (Homeland Security) challenges, I will be nominated as the next President of the University of California to play a role in educating our nation’s next generation of leaders,” Napolitano said in a statement.
Napolitano, 55, was “quietly approached” about the post in academia by an executive search firm and, after months of deliberations by a committee of UC regents, was nominated for the position, the Los Angeles Times said.
The regents “focused on her early as a high-profile, although untraditional, candidate who has led large public agencies and shown a strong interest in improving education,” the Times reported.
Napolitano was governor of Arizona from 2003 to 2009, when she was named by President Barack Obama to lead the Department of Homeland Security.
She did her undergraduate degree at Santa Clara University in California, where she was the first woman valedictorian, and then moved to the East Coast to study law at the University of Virginia.
In a statement, Obama thanked Napolitano “for her outstanding work on behalf of the American people over the last four years… And as she begins a new chapter in a remarkable career of public service, I wish her the best of luck.”
Napolitano will replace UC president Mark Yudof, who has led the university system since 2008. Yudof announced in January that he would resign in August and go back to teaching law at the University of California, Berkeley.
Napolitano is expected to take up her duties overseeing UC’s annual budget of $24 billion, 230,000 students, 191,000 faculty and staff, five medical centers and three national labs in September, the Los Angeles Times said.