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UHV president finalist comes for job, community

By KBell
June 24, 2011 at 1:24 a.m.

Dr. Philip Castille, the sole finalist for the UHV presidency, listens to comments from the crowd during a presentation to community members and leaders Friday at Jaguar Hall. Castille plans to take over the position in August.

The man slated to be the next University of Houston-Victoria president said he hopes to be the catalyst that takes the growing university from good to great.

"I would like us to take that next step and really make us known across the region, across the state, and perhaps beyond as a destination university that students seek out," Philip Castille told an audience of community leaders Friday afternoon.

Castille was making the rounds in Victoria along with UH System Chancellor Renu Khator after being named the final of dozens of candidates through which a search committee pored over the last nine months.

Khator recommended Castille to the UH Board of Regents on June 6. The board is expected to approve the appointment at its Aug. 17 meeting, just in time for classes that start five days later.

For her part, Khator said two qualities stuck out when it came to Castille: his passion for students and the Victoria community.

"He said, 'If there's energy, you can harness it.' There's so much energy here at UHV," Khator said.

Castille reiterated that in his speech, when he acknowledged some division in Victoria over the direction of the university. Some area leaders, like Mayor Will Armstrong, have voiced support for Rep. Geanie Morrison's bill to switch the Victoria institution to the Texas A&M system.

Castille is far from daunted by the contention.

"I don't have a problem with people who truly care about the future of the university ... and how to best serve the students who come to us. That's what's really most important," he said.

Castille is the former special assistant to the chancellor at the University of Hawaii at Hilo and has previously worked in the UH system at its downtown campus. He was there during UH-downtown's most formative years, when it grew from offering only one degree program to the array of offerings it has today.

"It's a big challenge, one that I've been part of at another university," Castille said of successful expansion to a four-year university. "I think I know how to make that happen. I think Victoria is just a breath away from it."

A few people at the Friday meeting and at his open forum in April asked Castille about his attitude toward continuing the university's relationship with Victoria College. VC President Tom Butler was on the search committee, and the two have a meeting Monday, Castille said.

The University of Hawaii at Hilo has a similar relationship with a community college - one that's mutually beneficial to the higher learning institutions, to the community and students, Castille said.

The challenges and opportunities unique to UHV may be ones in which Castille has had experience, but it's not just the elements of the job that led him to Victoria.

His 3-year-old son, Edward, was the game-changer for him and his wife, Shannon.

Calling himself a "late-bloomer" when it comes to fatherhood, Castille said he and his family look forward to being near relatives in Houston. He's also excited about raising his son in a smaller community like the one in which he grew up in Louisiana.

The family will be looking for a pre-school and a house in Victoria while packing up their Hawaiian home.

"We are here to be participants in this community. We're here to invest in this community, to be genuine stakeholders in it." Castille said. "So for me, this is not a spectator sport or a career move or what have you. I'm bringing my family here with the best and highest intentions for us to thrive and prosper here."

Castille answered Friday a few questions from audience members, and he had most laughing more than once with his quips.

The mayor said he thinks Castille will fit in just right in Victoria.

"If first impressions are any indication of success, he'll do very well," Armstrong said.



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