Castro named California State University chancellor, first person of color to hold post

LONG BEACH >> The first-ever California native and Mexican-American to lead the system, Joseph I. Castro will serve as the eighth chancellor for California State universities starting Jan. 4.

Castro, 53, was appointed by the CSU Board of Trustees on Wednesday, Sept. 23. He succeeds Timothy P. White, who is retiring after holding the position since 2012.

Dr. Timothy White, retiring California State University chancellor. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Castro, the first person of color to hold the top CSU post, previously served as the president of Fresno State and has also spent 23 years in the University of California system in roles such as Vice Chancellor of Student Academic Affairs and Professor of Family and Community Medicine at the University California, San Francisco.

For the first time, the state’s top three education leaders will be people of color. Castro will serve alongside new University of California President Michael Drake, who is Black, and California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley, who is Latino.

Oakley, former president of Long Beach City College, tweeted praise for the new chancellor.  “The California State University board of trustees could not have picked a more committed and student-centered leader,” Oakley said in his statement. “Joe Castro will be a champion for students, and I look forward to working with him.”

Latino residents comprise 43% of CSU enrollment; about 20% of students are White, 15% Asian and 4% Black. The CSU system includes about 480,000 students and 53,000 teachers, administration and staff.

Castro received his Bachelor’s in political science and a Master’s in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley and a Ph.D. in higher education policy and leadership from Stanford University. Castro and his wife, Mary, have three children.

The new chancellor will receive $625,000 in annual salary, plus a monthly housing allowance of $7,917 and a monthly auto allowance of $1,000.

“My great-grandparents and grandfather immigrated from Mexico about a hundred years ago to work on the railroad and to work the land of the San Joaquin Valley,” Castro told the CSU Board of Trustees during a virtual meeting in which he was introduced. “And I’ve been so honored for the last seven years to serve here at Fresno State.

“Like the majority of students that we serve at CSU, I was the first in my family to attend and graduate from a university, and that’s a gift that I’ve been paying back ever since,” he said. “I intend to continue paying that gift back over time as chancellor of the CSU. I am committed to working with the entire CSU community, including my brother and sister presidents and vice chancellor colleagues to take our transformational 23-campus system to new heights of success in the coming years.”

White, 71, announced last October that he would be retiring, effective in July 2020. But he delayed those plans in March when the coronavirus pandemic took hold, forcing the system and its roughly 480,000 students into a virtual learning environment that will continue through the spring. He was the chancellor of the Riverside campus of the University of California from 2008 to 2012.

The search process for his replacement was also put on temporary hold.

CSU Board of Trustees Chair Lillian Kimbell introduced Castro during the board’s virtual meeting Wednesday.

“Dr. Castro is a passionate and effective advocate for his students, his campus and the CSU in his local community, in Sacramento and in Washington, D.C.,” she said. “Above all, he’s a leader who inspires greatness in his students, in his faculty and staff and in the broader community. He’s bold yet measured and collaborative, courageous and a proven innovator, but uncompromising in his core values. In short, he is the right leader for the California State University in our current circumstances and for our future.”

White had been CSU chancellor since 2012. He is credited with spearheading efforts to bolster graduation rates, while also seeing state funding for the system increase from $2.3 billion to $3.6 billion during his tenure, with enrollment rising from 436,000 to more than 480,000.

Castro will take the helm of the CSU system during a particularly challenging time, with most classes being delivered via distance learning amid the pandemic. Many major university sports and extracurricular programs are on hold or severely limited.

The schools have also been focal points for debate on social justice amid the enduring protests calling for an end to racism and police misconduct nationwide. Students at the nation’s largest four-year public university system, are now required to take an ethic studies course to graduate, required by a vote of trustees last month — and affirmed by a bill signed Aug. 18. by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.


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