WASHINGTON (CBS SF) — U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is resigning to become head of the University of California system.

Napolitano, who is just the third person to head the department, made the announcement in a statement Friday. She will become president of the University of California.

UC Regent Sherry Lansing, who chaired the special selection committee for a new president, said in a statement that Napolitano was recommended by the committee in a unanimous vote after a review of more than 300 candidates.

“Secretary Napolitano is a distinguished and dedicated public servant who has earned trust at the highest, most critical levels of our country’s government,” Lansing said.

Prior to serving as Homeland Security Secretary, Napolitano was governor of Arizona.

Her Bay Area ties include graduating from Santa Clara University as the school’s first female valedictorian, according to UC officials.

The full UC Board of Regents will consider the recommendation at its meeting on Thursday in San Francisco.

Current UC president Mark Yudof announced earlier this year that he was stepping down at the end of August after more than five years in the post.

If appointed, Napolitano would be the first female president in the 145-year history of the University of California.

“I am both honored and excited by the prospect of serving as president of the University of California,” Napolitano said in a statement.

“If appointed, I intend to reach out and listen to chancellors, to faculty, to students, to the state’s political leaders, to regents, to the heads of the other public higher education systems and, of course, to President Yudof and his team, who have done so much to steer the University of California through some extremely rough waters,” she said.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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