- President Emeritus
- Professor of English
- © Photo by Peggy Harrison
John Casteen served as president of the University of Virginia 1990-2010. The initiatives of these years included major institutional planning programs (Virginia 2020 and others); increases in the numbers of students and faculty members; construction of new buildings in Charlottesville, Wise, and elsewhere; expansion of international programs for research and for learning; increases in the University’s endowments and other non-state funds; and significant growth in the University’s stature. In this period, also, the University was recognized for its leadership in educating minority students, for its equity programs generally, for the quality of its undergraduate teaching and programs of financial aid for students with need, and for its success in refinancing itself following historic reductions in state tax support at the beginning of the decade.
After teaching English at the University of California (Berkeley) and the University of Virginia, and service as U.Va.’s Admissions Dean, Mr. Casteen became Virginia's Secretary of Education in 1982. He served until 1985. While secretary, he directed reforms in both secondary and higher education, revamped Virginia's college desegregation efforts, and initiated programs of state support for research. From 1985 to 1990, he was president of the University of Connecticut.
Mr. Casteen has been a director of the American Council on Education, a director of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, trustee and chair of the College Entrance Examination Board, commissioner of the Education Commission of the States, member of the Board of Control for the Southern Regional Education Board, commissioner of the New England Board of Higher Education, and chair of the Association of Governing Board’s council of presidents. From 1991 to 1993, he chaired the National Board on Oceans and Atmosphere.
In 1997, Mr. Casteen completed a term as chair of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) as well as a term as president of SACS. In 2000-2002, he chaired the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). He chaired the Association of American Universities (AAU). He is currently serving on AGB’s National Commission on College and University Board Governance and the Academy of Arts and Science’s Lincoln Project: Excellence and Access in Public Higher Education
Mr. Casteen’s business career has included service on corporate boards including the Wachovia Corporation, Strayer, the Altria Group, Sage Publications and Echo360. He serves as a Director of the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education, The Mariner’s Museum, Virginia Intermont College, the Leifur Eiríksson Foundation and the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia. He served as chair of Universitas 21 and was a member of the Board of Directors of U21 Global Pte Ltd. From 2005-2013, he was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Mr. Casteen was named the Outstanding Virginian of 1993. The state conference of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) presented its Jackson Davis Award to him in December 1993. In February 1996, he received the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Athens (the National and Kapodistrian University). In 1998, he was named the University of Virginia’s outstanding alumnus of the year. In December 1998, he received the Gold Medal of the National Institute of Social Sciences. In November 2002, Mr. Casteen was selected as the inaugural recipient of the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention’s Presidents Leadership Group Award. The Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects awarded him its Architecture Medal for Virginia Service in 2004. He is a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Mr. Casteen recently received the University of Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson Award, the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Paul Goodloe McIntire Citizenship Award, and the 2010 Virginia Press Association Virginian of the Year award. In July 2011, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Edinburgh. In March 2013, he received the John Hope Franklin Award from Diverse: Issues in Higher Education. In 2014, he received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration Award.
A collection of his short stories received the 1987 Mishima Award for fiction. His current writing has had to do with public policy issues affecting universities and colleges.
Mr. Casteen is a University Professor. His current courses include intellectual history courses on Venice, a multiyear series of graduate seminars on governance of colleges and universities, and introductory courses in Old English and Old Icelandic literature.
Mr. Casteen holds three degrees in English from the University of Virginia (B.A., high honors, 1965, M.A., 1966, Ph.D., 1970. His wife is Betsy Foote Casteen. They have five children and 4 grandchildren.