Diversity Hero

Get an Insider’s Look at
 the CSU’s New Chancellor

Find out what Joseph I. Castro is really like—from those who know him best.


“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what
  you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

​Joseph I. Castro’s academic and professional achievements are impressive. Just read his official bio to discover his accomplishments through the years—from his time as a student at University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University to his faculty and administrative roles at several of the UC campuses and most recently his seven years of transformational leadership at California State University, Fresno​. Now he’s stepping into the role of chancellor of the nation’s largest and most diverse four-year university, becoming the eighth individual to hold that title.

You might already know that Dr. Castro is the first California-born and the first Mexican American to serve in this role. But that only scratches the surface. If you want to find out about a person, ask a few of the people closest to him. So we did! Here are eight insights—from family members, civic leaders, CSU faculty, students and alumni—sharing a glimpse into the character of the CSU’s new leader.

image of Mary Castro


“Joe and I met when we both worked at Burger King in Hanford, California. We started dating in 1985. He's the same person today as he was when I met him when he was 18—kind hearted with bold goals. Joe’s a caring person, and he's very protective of his personal relationships. He still has his best friends from kindergarten and fifth grade and the guys he played tennis with in high school. He really values interactions with people on a personal level, and that has translated into the way he connects with students. He wants to know their stories and be an advocate for their success. Joe takes care of people every time he has an opportunity, and he's always thinking about ways that he can make things better.”

image of Joan Eaton Clockwise from top left: Mary Castro, Paul Gibson, Chancellor Castro, Joan Eaton, Dr. Virginia Eaton

Joan Eaton | Member of the Board of Governors of the Fresno State Foundation

"'We are so glad to be home,’ said Mary and Joe Castro when we met for the first time at our home in 2013. They’d walked down the street from the Fresno State president’s house to join us for an impromptu ‘Welcome to Fresno’ dinner. We learned that evening that Joe and Mary were also raised in the Central Valley. Seated around the table were eight people, all of whom shared multigenerational and multinational stories about families making California and the Central Valley their home. It was easy to realize over the course of just one evening how well Mary and Joe understand the importance of place, the value of personal journeys and the opportunities for bold leadership in Fresno and California."

image of Isaac Castro

Isaac Castro | Son

“One of my favorite memories of my dad goes back to when I was a kid. On Saturday mornings, he would wake me up early with a hot plate of chorizo and eggs—he called it a ‘hero breakfast.’ We would spend the morning laughing, talking about our week and then sometimes we'd run a few errands. I always appreciated that no matter how busy he was, he always carved out that time for me. More than 20 years later, I see him do the same with my little brother. One day I hope to do the same with my children. The chorizo was pretty good, too.”

image of Hisham Ayman Qutob

Hisham Ayman Qutob | Executive Vice President Associated Students, Inc., Fresno State

“While some believe a community is applicable solely to a particular few belonging to a set group, Chancellor Castro goes beyond the status quo and ensures that all are a part of the community. Rather than allowing the burden to remain with the individuals to join the community, he takes on that burden. When wanting to connect with students, Chancellor Castro meets them where they are. For instance, he encourages students to interact with him on Twitter. This guarantees that all are welcome and cared for, certifies that all voices are heard, all concerns are addressed and all can approach him. Knowing this, I have no doubt in my mind he will only help grow our CSU community. And for any student who wishes to contact their chancellor, just know he's only a tweet away!”

image of April Aquino

April Aquino | Sister

“The one thing that sticks out in my mind that I admire about my brother, Joe, was when my daughter, Jaclyn, started her first year at Fresno State. While we were in line waiting to register for dorm assignments, we saw Joe greeting many of the other students in line. He wasn’t just greeting them; he was actually helping them move into their dorms, carrying or rolling their luggage and boxes with a smile. As I watched how he interacted with them and their parents, his mannerism, his voice and lighthearted conversations, I realized this is how he speaks with members of our own family. He sincerely treats every student, and their parents, like family.”

image of Erika D. Beck, Ph.D.

Erika D. Beck, Ph.D. | President of CSUN

“Early in my tenure as President of CSU Channel Islands, I attended the CSU GI 2025 Symposium and found myself sitting at the same table as then-President Castro. At one point during the symposium, we were listening to a presentation from a CSUCI student regarding the campus’ peer mentorship program. This student did an exceptional job and at the conclusion of the presentation, Dr. Castro approached the student and stated how he could tell the student was an incredible leader for the campus, as well as within higher education. Dr. Castro then proceeded to give the student his business card with his personal cell number and noted that he wanted the student to become a member of the Bulldog community as a graduate student. From that moment, I knew Dr. Castro was a leader who was deeply connected to students, and he poignantly demonstrated that his work is grounded in their success.”

image of Kevin J. Macy-Ayotte, Ph.D.

Kevin J. Macy-Ayotte, Ph.D. | Professor and Chair, Department of Communication, Fresno State

“Our new chancellor, Dr. Joseph I. Castro, is not only a visionary and effective academic leader but also a dad who made a point of bringing his young son, Jess, to campus events, modeling his support for faculty parents. I had many opportunities to work with Dr. Castro while he was president of Fresno State, but one of my fondest memories comes not from work but from a football game. Dr. Castro had invited my family to the 2013 Mountain West Championship, where he presented our son, T.J., and several other children replicas of the official coin from the kickoff toss. Faculty often struggle to balance work and family life, but Dr. Castro’s constant inclusion of and kindness toward our children demonstrated that supporting our families makes the CSU stronger.”

image of Jesse Molina

Jesse Molina | Fresno State alumnus ’00, Corporate Attorney and Data Privacy Professional

“I met Dr. Castro in a church in south Fresno after he spoke to a large group of community members about how education can transform lives and provide economic mobility. I watched in awe how he addressed each question with empathy, kindness and humility. For the first time in my life, I saw a leader who looked like me, and this instantly expanded my horizon of what was possible.

“We became fast friends and bonded through our shared stories—of our grandfathers, their struggles and journeys from Mexico to the United States so we could pursue our education and how we yearned to make them proud. We had so much in common…our grandfathers even had the same first name! I didn’t see a president of a university, but rather a friend and mentor who encouraged me and inspired me to be of service through his actions more than his words.

“Over the years, I had a front row seat to observe Dr. Castro’s steadfast and humble leadership in times of crisis and success. We met regularly for breakfast to keep current. I’ll never forget one particular breakfast when Dr. Castro shared with me that he reflects daily on the question posed from the memory of his grandparents, ‘What did you do today with the gifts that I have given you?’ I, too, try and reflect daily on this question so my actions can make my grandparents proud and I can be of service to my community.”

Learn more about the CSU’s eighth chancellor, Dr. Josep​h I. Castro.