Hanford proud of native son Joseph Castro, new Fresno State president

The Fresno BeeMay 22, 2013 

— No one is happier than Anne Marie Mendez that native son Joseph Castro is the new president of Fresno State.

She's his mother.

"I feel so proud, very proud," Mendez said. "And real excited for him. He's got a big job, but I know he's looking forward to it."

RELATED STORY: Joseph Castro, UCSF vice chancellor, named Fresno State's first Latino president

Mendez, a retired beautician, still lives in the small three-bedroom home where she raised her son and his sister -- April Aquino, a Fresno State grad living in Hanford -- and supported the family as a single mother.

Her son's bedroom was in a converted garage that served as the pathway to the laundry room, she said.

Growing up, Castro always did his homework without being asked, Mendez said.

"He was the type who was responsible," she said. "He was 30 when he was 10, very mature for his age."

But "he had his fun, too," tracking his favorite NFL team, the Miami Dolphins, and holding Super Bowl parties, she said.

Castro's first job was as a paperboy for the Hanford Sentinel, then an afternoon paper. In high school, he flipped hamburgers at Burger King after school and in summer.

The money he earned was his to keep, but "he would always take out one of my bills and pay it for me," Mendez said.

Word got around fast Wednesday in this city of 54,000 that one of their own had been named to one of the most high-profile jobs in Fresno and the Valley.

"Fresno State is a Valley college, a lot of students from Hanford go there," Council Member Russ Curry said. "It's nice to see someone from our town get this."

Kim Dodd, a 1985 Hanford High grad and now a teacher there, immediately sent out an email to faculty and staff upon hearing the news.

"The new President of CSU Fresno is Joseph Castro (Joey as Bullpups knew him) a member of the Class of 1984," she wrote.

She told students in her yearbook class to take a lesson from someone who once sat in their chairs.

"Just because you are from a small school in a small town doesn't mean you can't do big things," Dodd told them.

While at Hanford High, Castro served as editor of the Meteor, the school newspaper, and played varsity tennis.

"He wasn't the best play as a freshman but by the time he was a senior he was a top player,"said classmate Eric Thompson, now a basketball coach at Nipomo High on the Central Coast. "He took no shortcuts."

Additionally, "he was always really polite," Thompson said.

Fellow '84 grad Beau Hill, athletic director at the high school, remembered him as being "one of the brightest kids in school."

"You could always tell growing up, he was following the right path," Hill said.

Classmate Marie Jones, now living in Milton, Fla., said she was in a YMCA leadership development program with Castro that culminated in trips to Sacramento and other destinations.

"He had a great sense of humor, but he had a sense of direction," Jones said. "He's always been a focused person."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6104, lgriswold@fresnobee.com or @fb_LewGriswold on Twitter.

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