FRESNO — The search for California State University, Fresno’s next president ended Wednesday when the California State University Board of Trustees named Hanford native Joseph Castro to the post after a month of deliberation.
Castro, currently vice chancellor of student academic affairs at University of California, San Francisco, is expected to start at Fresno State on Aug. 1. Castro will succeed John Welty, who is retiring this year.
“I’m deeply honored, humbled and blessed by the confidence [the CSU Trustees] have shown me,” Castro said during a teleconference call Wednesday. “I want to thank and applaud Dr. Welty for his successful leadership. I’m standing on the shoulders of those who have shaped Fresno State to become an outstanding regional facility.”
The decision came after a committee reviewed more than 60 applicants for the job. Four to six candidates were interviewed in closed-door meetings in Los Angeles this month before the committee decided on Castro.
Castro said he loves the diversity of the university and that he’s “immersing” himself in “everything Fresno State.”
“It’s truly a magnificent campus, one I’m privileged to lead,” he said. “I see it as a place of great success for students of all backgrounds. The strength of Fresno State is its people.”
Castro grew up in Hanford, going to Monroe Elementary School and Woodrow Wilson Jr. High School. He attended Hanford West High School for two years, then moved to Hanford High for his final years and graduated in 1984.
“You knew you hit the big time when you got to Hanford High School,” he said. “I’ve graduated from being a Bullpup to a Bulldog.”
Hanford High School teacher Kim Dowd went to school during the same time as Castro, although he was a year older. She said although she didn’t know him very well, he made a good impression on her.
“He was very friendly and outgoing,” she said.
Dowd said she’s very proud of Castro’s achievements and said she has been telling all of her students about it.
“I wanted to show them that they can achieve their goals if they take advantage of great opportunities,” she said. “Some students think you have to be privileged to go to a university, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Even though Hanford is a small town, its people can do big things. Today is a great day to be a Bullpup.”
Castro said growing up in Hanford has had a major impact on his life, both professionally and personally.
“I had a really great life growing up in Hanford,” he said. “It provided me with insight on opportunities available throughout the Valley. I’m looking forward to tapping into all that experience.”
Castro graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public policy from UC Berkeley. He also received a doctorate degree from Stanford University for higher education policy and leadership.
After graduating, Castro worked at various UCs, including UC Merced, which he helped establish in the late ’90s. He served as director of academic programs at the school from 1997 to 2001.
West Hills Community College District Chancellor Frank Gornick said he met Castro during his outreach efforts for UC Merced.
“He’s a great choice,” Gornick said. “Castro had done a wonderful job. I’m happy to see him come back to the Valley, and I’m looking forward to his work at Fresno State.”
Gornick said Castro is very thorough and focused on students, and that he has a passion for the Valley.
“There are no surprises for him in the Valley,” he said. “He knows what it’s going to take. I’m really excited for him. I think he’s going to take Fresno State to new heights in leadership.”
After leaving UC Merced in 2001, Castro took a job as executive director of academic preparation at UC Santa Barbara until 2006. After that, he worked at UC San Francisco until he got the Fresno State position.
“I’ve always wanted to come back to the Valley at some point,” he said. “Even when I wasn’t there, I thought of it often and did what I could to support it.”
Castro will be returning to the Valley with his wife, Mary. He said he’s always had some family here in the Valley and that without their support, he wouldn’t be the man he is today.
“I’m looking forward to being back home,” he said. “It’s a great honor to be back in the Valley and serving in a new, exciting way.”
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