Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was approved Thursday as the first female president of the 10-campus University of California system and is expected to begin the job in September.
Supporters lauded Napolitano as a leader who has managed large, complex public agencies, and said her political aptitude would help the financially embattled university system secure money from the state and donors.
Napolitano appeared before university regents after the governing board voted. She acknowledged that she is not a traditional candidate for the job but said she brings years of experience advocating for higher education.
Napolitano will make a base salary of $570,000 and get a one-time relocation fee of $142,500 and an annual auto allowance of $8,916.
Student regent Cinthia Flores cast the only vote against her appointment.
Police handcuffed and removed at least four protesters who urged regents not to appoint Napolitano because of her record involving deportations.
Napolitano defended her track record on immigration, saying she has been an advocate for the federal DREAM Act.
Napolitano was approved by the Board of Regents after becoming the unanimous choice of a 10-member search committee that considered more than 300 people for the job.
The announcement last Friday that Napolitano had been nominated for the position caught many university and Washington insiders by surprise.
Napolitano, who attended the private Santa Clara University in California as an undergraduate, has already announced her resignation from President Barack Obama's cabinet.
In the week since she surfaced as the search committee's choice, some faculty members have complained that she is more schooled in politics than higher education.
Several newspapers have taken issue with the secrecy surrounding Napolitano's selection and the short time frame between the announcement and Thursday's vote.
Napolitano, 55, will be succeeding Mark Yudof, 68, who in 2008 became the first president from outside California to lead the UC system in two decades. He had spent 11 years leading the public universities in Minnesota and Texas.
As UC president, Yudof was one of the nation's most highly paid college administrators, earning an annual salary of $591,084 -- almost triple what Napolitano makes as Homeland Security secretary -- plus car and housing allowances, retirement contributions and other benefits that brought his annual compensation at more than $925,000.
Napolitano will take over at a time of improving but still serious financial challenges for the university system, including rising costs for employee salaries and retirement benefits.
After several years of deep budget cuts, Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this month signed a state budget that boosts funding for UC.
University regents on Wednesday scaled back plans for price increases on graduate programs.
The university had considered raising prices for professional degrees in 29 programs. Instead, regents approved increases for eight programs.