Jul 12, 2020
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Fresno State President Dr. Joseph I. Castro speaks in front of a crowd of around 750 during the fifth annual State of the University breakfast at the Save Mart Center, on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (Larry Valenzuela/ The Collegian)

Castro unveils big donation and more surprises at State of the University

Fresno State President Dr. Joseph I. Castro announced a $1 million donation and presented honors during the fifth annual State of the University breakfast at the Save Mart Center on Feb. 11.

Around 750 community leaders and alumni attended the speech, during which Castro announced the newest recipients of the President’s Medal of Distinction, the highest non-degree award presented by Fresno State.


Virginia Eaton, 96-years-old, received the top honor last week at the Terraces at San Joaquin Gardens where she lives. Her daughter, Joan Eaton, took the stage at the Save Mart Center to receive the honor on her mother’s behalf.  

Castro then surprised Joan Eaton, a longtime community business leader and lecturer at Fresno State, when he named her as the second recipient of the president’s medal. 

“I am flat-foot surprised,” Eaton said after receiving her medal. “I am deeply honored. I consider it a privilege to be a part of the Bulldog family. Thank you.”

Castro praised the accomplishments of both women.

“We can certainly say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Joan, we are proud of your mother, and we are proud of you,” Castro said as he stood next to her. “We are grateful for your many contributions specific to meeting the needs of our students. Giving back is in your nature. It was modeled by your parents, and you have discovered your own gracious way of doing the same.”

Castro later announced that a new nursing program would be starting up in the Visalia campus in the fall 2020 semester. The campus is set to launch both the RN and BSN with 20 students. 

Castro finished off by revealing a $1 million donation to the President’s Circle of Excellence from former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill, a Fresno State alumnus. O’Neill informed Castro of his intentions to donate through a letter describing his experience at Fresno State. 

“He shared with me that his transformative experience as a Fresno State student established the foundation for all of his professional success,” Castro said. “He included the names of faculty who mentored him and paved the way for a fellowship at Claremont Graduate School. … We all have a Fresno State story like Secretary O’Neill’s story. There are 25,000 student stories being written right now thanks to our faculty, staff and all of you.”

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