Janet Napolitano, Santa Clara University '79

Janet Napolitano, Santa Clara University '79

Janet Napolitano (Santa Clara University '79) is a distinguished public servant with a record of leading large, complex organizations at the federal and state levels. 

As the president of the University of California (UC), Napolitano leads a university system with ten 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, 190,000 employees, 1.6 million living alumni, and an annual operating budget of more than $24 billion.  

Before taking office in 2013, Napolitano was appointed by President Obama to be the third Secretary of Homeland Security, a department created in the wake of 9/11. As Secretary, Napolitano managed a department with 225,000 employees and a $55 billion budget, whose mandate is clear: to keep America safe. In the early months of her tenure, she traveled to Pakistan, Mexico, Canada and Ireland to drive security efforts in shipping, transportation, cyberspace and border security.

Accustomed to being a groundbreaker, Napolitano was Santa Clara University’s first female valedictorian, Arizona's first female attorney general, and the first woman to chair the National Governors Association. She is a former mountain climber who has hiked the Himalayas and summited Mount Kilimanjaro.

Napolitano was elected Arizona’s Attorney General in 1998, after having been appointed a federal U.S. Attorney by President Bill Clinton in 1993. First elected governor of Arizona in 2002, Napolitano was instrumental in opening the first state counter-terrorism center and led efforts to transform immigration enforcement. She established the Homeland Security Advisors Council. She was re-elected to a second term, and in 2005, was chosen by TIME magazine as one of America's Top Five Governors.

Napolitano was Santa Clara’s undergraduate commencement speaker in 2003. She urged grads to hold themselves to strict standards of honesty as they step out into the world. 

“The most important value of a Santa Clara education is the realization that education and intellect are incomplete without character,” she said. In fact, the values she learned at Santa Clara, which strives to infuse ethics into all academic disciplines, have informed her leadership style for years. “Having an ethical core is important because you get pulled in so many directions. I ask myself, how will I explain this to my family and friends if they read about it?” 

Related Links:

President Obama taps Janet Napolitano for Cabinet post

Napolitano stresses importance of ethics to SCU undergraduates

Janet Napolitano Biography

Napolitano essay on her first year as president