NEWSFLASH: Janet Napolitano Nominated to Head University of California


She was governor of Arizona for six years, and since 2009 has been secretary of Homeland Security in President Obama’s cabinet: Now she’s been chosen to become the first woman president in the history of the University of California. Said Sherry Lansing, the UC regent who led the search committee to replace Mark G. Yudof, who resigned after five years, said that Napolitano:

was an effective advocate for public education [as governor] … Those who know her best say that a passion for education is in her DNA.

President Bill Clinton’s secretary of health and human services, Donna Shalala, also was named to head a university (University of Miami) after leaving the cabinet, but she had previously been president of Hunter College and chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Napolitano, 55, an attorney by training, doesn’t have a background in university leadership  (though her father Leonard was the longtime dean of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine), but according to the Los Angeles Times,

The UC regents appear to want a public figure who can attract more revenue while using her stature to bring more financial discipline to the system.

It only took the University of California 145 years to choose a women president. We think it’s about time.

Photo of Napolitano from Flickr user The National Guard under license from Creative Commons 2.0


Michele Kort is senior editor of Ms. She is the author of Soul Picnic: The Music and Passion of Laura Nyro and coeditor (with Audrey Bilger) of Here Come the Brides: Reflections on Lesbian Love and Marriage.