The University of Virginia Oral History Project: Interviews with John T. Casteen III

Author:Scarborough, Sheree

Biographical Statement
John T. Casteen III was born in 1943, in Portsmouth, Virginia. He received three degrees in English from the University of Virginia (B.A. in 1965, M.A. in 1966, and Ph.D. in 1970). He began his professional career teaching English at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1975, he returned to the University of Virginia where he served as Dean of Admissions and taught English until 1982. Between 1982 and 1985 he served as Secretary of Education in the cabinet of Virginia Governor Charles S. Robb. Returning to higher education, Casteen was president of the University of Connecticut from 1985 to 1990. In 1990, he became the seventh president of the University of Virginia and resigned from that position in 2010 to become president emeritus. Mr. Casteen’s twenty year tenure as president is the second longest in the history of the University of Virginia.

Interview Synopsis
Mr. Casteen begins the interview by describing his childhood, early education, and family background in Portsmouth, Virginia. He recounts some of his experiences and the cultural milieu of his undergraduate and graduate years, as well as scholarly influences, at the University of Virginia. He describes courses he taught, the English Department, and what he learned about the American academy during his time at the University of California. Although touching on his stints as admissions dean at the University of Virginia, Virginia’s Secretary of Education, and president of the University of Connecticut, the majority of the interview focuses on Mr. Casteen’s years as president of the University of Virginia. He explores such topics as the shortfall in state appropriations and the University’s successful refinancing effort, restructuring of the University's administrative structure, the two capital campaigns in which his administration was involved, and major expansions of the University's physical facilities. Other topics he addresses include the importance of a diverse university community, the role of a university president, the honor system, Thomas Jefferson’s impact on the University, as well as several tragedies that occurred during his tenure. He concludes with thoughts on the current state and future of the University of Virginia and of higher education in general.

John Casteen, oral history, President, Administration, University of Virginia, UVa, UVaOHP
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Source Citation:

Scarborough, Sheree. The University of Virginia Oral History Project: Interviews with John T. Casteen III. University of Virginia, 2012.

University of Virginia
Published Date:
Sponsoring Agency:
University of Virginia

Conducted on February 21, February 22, and February 23, 2012 by Sheree Scarborough, History Associates Incorporated, Rockville, Maryland.