The dirt-poor son of a copper miner and midwife who put himself through school by plucking chickens, panning gold and waiting tables and later achieved the state’s highest office will soon receive another in a long list of honors.
Raul H. Castro, the first and only Latino governor of Arizona and a graduate of Northern Arizona University, will have the Social and Behavioral Sciences building named in his honor during ceremonies next month.
Castro, who served as Arizona’s 14th governor from 1975 to 1977 before being appointed U.S. ambassador to Argentina, will attend the ceremony beginning at 3 p.m. Feb. 15 in the Raul H. Castro Social and Behavioral Sciences building on south campus.
“The College of Social and Behavioral Sciences houses the Department of Sociology and Social Work—people who help poor people. Raul Castro advocates for poor people,” said Ernest Calderón, vice president of the Arizona Board of Regents. “This man has had a tremendous career. He is the most successful NAU graduate from a political perspective.”
Castro was born in Mexico in 1916, where he lived until 1926 when his family moved near Douglas, Arizona.
He worked a variety of odd jobs while attending Northern Arizona University, then known as Arizona State Teachers College, where he was captain of the track team and captain of the boxing team. In 1988 Castro was voted into the NAU Athletics Hall of Fame.
He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1939, the same year he earned U.S. citizenship.
Castro later graduated from the University of Arizona law school and his legal and political career began. In addition to governor, Castro has served as Pima County attorney, a Superior Court judge and as ambassador to El Salvador and Bolivia.
Former Sen. Dennis DeConcini, also a member of the Board of Regents, has a long family history with Castro. His mother taught young Raul when she was a substitute teacher in Tucson, and his brother, Dino, served as Castro’s chief of staff when Castro was governor.
Dennis DeConcini himself was Castro’s campaign manager during his second run for governor.
“I’m so happy for him and NAU,” DeConcini said. “He’s a great Arizonan, leader and symbol of minority advancement and success. He has been a great mentor to others, including me.”
Castro’s areas of legal expertise include immigration, naturalization and customs, as well as private international law and public international law.
“Any Arizona institution would be proud to have Raul Castro’s name associated with it,” said NAU President John Haeger. “With the numerous contributions he has made to Arizona and to society, we are honored to count him as one of our alumni.”