Originally started as the Richard T. Castro Distinguished Visiting Professorship was initiated in 1997 to foster multiculturalism, diversity, and academic excellence at Metropolitan State University of Denver. In 2021 the name changed to Richard T. and Virginia M. Castro Distinguished Visiting Professorship to recognize the labor and passion that Virginia Castro brought to the Chicano movement in Denver with Richard. The professorship brings renowned Latinx scholars, artists, and leaders of distinction to MSU Denver to conduct classes, seminars, performances, and lectures for students, faculty, staff, and the larger Denver community.
Richard T. Castro (1946-1991), an educational and civil rights activist, was one of Colorado’s true champions of disenfranchised communities. From a young street social worker in the early 1970s to executive director of Denver’s civil rights agency, Castro was known as a fighter for human justice and dignity. At 25, Castro became one of the youngest lawmakers ever elected to the House of Representatives, a post he held for five terms. Castro led many struggles for social justice, including opposition to English-only legislation. He was a leading spokesperson in the debate on Mexican immigration. A bust commemorating Castro, sculpted by noted Denver artist Emanuel Martinez, sits in the rotunda of the state capitol.
An Activist at MSU Denver
Castro was an early instructor in what would become the Chicana/o Studies Department at MSU Denver. He was an outspoken leader on the importance of education to meet the needs of a culturally diverse population.
A Denver native, Castro received his bachelor’s degree from MSU Denver and his master’s degree in community organization from the University of Denver. While working his way through DU, he taught part-time at MSU Denver and was a youth counselor. He was a student activist with such organizations as the Displaced Aurarians and the United Farm Workers. During that time, Castro was arrested after intervening when police allegedly beat a Latino youth. The incident sparked an intense awareness of relations between the police and the Latino population. Throughout this incident and others like it, Castro advocated change through education and politics, rather than violence.
Castro once said, “Education’s role in our society cannot be minimized…It is quite probably the most critical investment a people can make.”
The Richard T. Castro Professorship illustrates how MSU Denver continues to build on its multicultural heritage and commitment to diversity. MSU Denver enrolls the highest number of students of color of all the four-year colleges and universities in the state.
The University has set a goal of becoming a Hispanic-Serving Institution, with 25 percent of its enrollment Hispanic. MSU Denver’s leadership team mirrors the diversity of the Denver community and the University is on its way to meeting its goal of recruiting more minority faculty and staff.