Community leaders and Fresno St. alumni celebrate growth of university

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno State University welcomed hundreds of community leaders and alumni for the 5th annual State of the University breakfast.

The breakfast started with the band on Tuesday morning. Viral Cymbal player Travis Morris pumped up the crowd.

"We probably can skip that second cup of coffee. I am really energized by all you," said Fresno State President Dr. Joseph Castro.

He went on to highlight the university's successes as well as the areas where he would like to see improvement.

He also announced the newest recipients of the President's Medal of Distinction, the highest non-degree award presented by Fresno State. Virginia Eaton, was a pediatrician in the valley for decades, was one recipient. Eaton and her late husband have two ongoing scholarships at the university.

She could not be at the breakfast, so her daughter Joan Eaton went on stage, only to be surprised with the award as well.

"This is very, very special. Fresno State is such an important part of our entire region, and I just consider it a privilege to be a part of the bulldog family. Thank you very much," Joan said.

Castro said Joan has made several contributions to different programs at the school.

He added she is also an instructor at the Craig School of Business, where she teaches business communications.

Castro said that private support from alumni and friends grew over 20 percent in the last year.

"Together, we are widening our circle of supporters and deepening a culture and philanthropy through Fresno State," he said.

He stressed how vital internships are for students and is encouraging more businesses to take a look at how they can help.

"What paid internships or other hands-on experience can you provide while they are students so that your organization can simultaneously lift up and benefit from these capable, so capable students," he said.

He explained that around 80% of the graduates stay here in the valley.

"In turn, you would benefit from building a robust pathway of future employees who are ready to add value to your organization," Castro mentioned.

It's also an exciting year for the university.

They've partnered with a few south valley colleges to offer a new nursing program in Visalia.

"We will enroll the first group of registered nurses into our South Valley RN to BSN with about 20 students," Castro said.

But Castro also recognized a short-coming for the university, saying thousands of eligible local students were not admitted. He blamed a lack of state funding.

But overall, he shared optimism for the university.

"I have a feeling 2020 is going to be a very good year for all of us," he said.

Castro also announced a big donation. He said U.S. former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill wrote him a letter about his time at Fresno State. O'Neill donated $1 million transformative gift to the President's Circle of Excellence.
Copyright © 2020 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.