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Posted Feb. 25, 2010

Napolitano to Receive Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law

Janet Napolitano
Janet Napolitano '83

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Contact: Mary Wood

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, a 1983 graduate of the Law School, will be awarded the 2010 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law.

“Secretary Napolitano embodies Jefferson’s ideal of the citizen lawyer,” said Dean Paul G. Mahoney. “She has accepted immense responsibilities at a time of great need.”

Napolitano will speak on "Legal Education as a Gateway to Public Service" at the Law School on April 13 at 3:30 p.m. in Caplin Auditorium as part of the ceremonies. The event is free and open to the public; parking around the building will be unrestricted after 3 p.m. Media representatives who wish to attend the lecture should contact Mary Wood at 434-924-3786 or mwood@virginia.edu.

Napolitano is the third secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and leads the nation’s efforts to secure the country in the face of threats ranging from terrorism to natural disasters. In that role, she has forged new partnerships with international allies and expanded information sharing with federal, state and local law enforcement to build a collaborative effort to detect and disrupt threats early on.

Napolitano served as governor of Arizona from 2003-09, where she was recognized as a national leader on homeland security, border security and immigration. She was chosen by Time magazine in 2005 as one of America’s top five governors.

Napolitano was the first woman and first Arizonan chosen to chair the National Governors Association, and served as Arizona’s first female attorney general prior to her election as governor. Before taking elected office, she served for four years as a U.S. attorney for the District of Arizona.

Napolitano spoke at the Law School’s 2007 commencement, where she challenged graduating students to make sense of the transformative nature of technology, international law and the rule of law. 

“Your job will be to sort out where to alter the law and where to leave it alone,” she said. “To know the law is to know how to make this world better through its proper application and to practice law properly is to engage in public service of the highest order. Never forget that being an attorney is not just a job, it is a calling — it is a way of life.”

Born in New York City and raised in Pittsburgh, Penn., and Albuquerque, N.M., Napolitano is a graduate of Santa Clara University, where she won a Truman Scholarship and was the university’s first female valedictorian.

Before entering public office, Napolitano served as a clerk for Judge Mary M. Schroeder on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and practiced law in Phoenix at the firm Lewis and Roca.

The Thomas Jefferson Medal in Law and its counterparts in architecture and civic leadership are the highest external honors bestowed by the University, which grants no honorary degrees. The awards recognize the achievements of those who embrace endeavors that Jefferson — author of the Declaration of Independence, third U.S. president and founder of the University of Virginia — excelled in and held in high regard.

Sponsored jointly by the University and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates Monticello, the annual awards are conferred during the University's Founder's Day celebrations, held around Jefferson's April 13 birthday. In addition to receiving a medal struck for the occasion, recipients will attend ceremonies in the Rotunda and a dinner at Monticello.