Janet Ann Napolitano was born November 29, 1957, and is a distinguished politician, lawyer, and university administrator who served as the 21st governor of Arizona from 2003 to 2009. In 2002, Napolitano won the gubernatorial election. She was Arizona’s third female governor and the first female governor to be elected outright. In November 2006, Napolitano was re-elected as governor. She was the first woman to be re-elected to that office and the first gubernatorial candidate in state history to win every county and every legislative district in Arizona.
As governor, she focused on education at all levels. She created all-day kindergarten. She created a literacy program and acquired funding for an increase in teachers’ salaries. She also created funding for a Phoenix campus for the University of Arizona College of Medicine. Under her leadership, she turned a deficit into a $650 million rainy day fund.
She was the third United States Secretary of Homeland Security from 2009 to 2013 under President Barack Obama and the first woman to hold that position. She was named president of the University of California in September 2013, the first woman to lead the University of California system. She used her tenure as president to encourage more students to pursue public service careers and established funds and scholarships. She stepped down from that position on August 1, 2020, to join the faculty at Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy as Professor of Public Policy and Director of the new Center for Security in Politics.
She was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2018.
Prior to being elected governor, she served as Attorney General of Arizona from 1999 to 2003. She was the first woman to serve in that office. Napolitano had earlier served as the United States Attorney for the District of Arizona, appointed by President Bill Clinton.
Forbes ranked her as the ninth most powerful woman in 2012 and eighth most powerful woman in 2013.
Napolitano attended Santa Clara University where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and won a Truman Scholarship. After graduation she worked as an analyst for the U.S. Senate Committee on the Budget. She earned her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law and served as law clerk for Judge Mary M. Schroeder of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She then joined Schroeder’s former firm, Lewis and Roca, in Phoenix where she was a protégé of well-known constitutional lawyer John P. Frank. Frank recruited her for his legal team when he represented Anita Hill.
Napolitano was born in New York and raised in New Mexico. She went to Sandia High School. She is an avid sports fan and tennis player, hiker, river runner, and climber. She travels the world for opera, plays the guitar, knows camp songs and all the lyrics of popular songs going back decades.
She is the author of How Safe Are We: Homeland Security Since 9/11, written with Karen Breslau. She has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Forbes, and many other professional journals and national news outlets. In 2015, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences She is the recipient of 9 honorary degrees as well as the Jefferson Medal from the University of Virginia, that University’s highest honor. In 2006, she won the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service. In November 2005 Time magazine named her one of the five best governors in the U.S. Janet Napolitano is the recipient of numerous honors, awards, and commendations. She resides in Oakland, California.