Betty Castor

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Betty Castor
Betty Castor.jpg
President of the University of South Florida System
In office
Preceded byRobert Bryan
Succeeded byThomas Tighe
Education Commissioner of Florida
In office
January 6, 1987 – January 3, 1994
GovernorBob Martinez
Lawton Chiles
Preceded byRalph Turlington
Succeeded byDoug Jamerson
Member of the Florida Senate
from the 21st district
In office
Preceded byDavid H. McClain[1]
Succeeded byJohn A. Grant Jr.
Personal details
Born (1941-05-11) May 11, 1941 (age 79)
Glassboro, New Jersey, US
Political partyDemocratic
Children3, including Kathy and Karen
EducationRowan University (BA)
University of Miami (MEd)

Betty Castor (born Elizabeth Bowe; May 11, 1941) is an American educator and former politician and elected officeholder. Castor was elected to the Florida Senate and as Florida Education Commissioner, and she subsequently served as the President of the University of South Florida, and President of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Her public service included three terms in the Florida State Senate and one term as a Hillsborough County Commissioner. In 2004, she was the Democratic nominee for the open U.S. Senate seat of retiring Senator Bob Graham and was narrowly defeated by Mel Martinez.

She is the mother of Kathy Castor, who is the Democratic Congresswoman from the Florida's 14th congressional district, Karen Castor Dentel, who is a former member of the Florida House of Representatives and current School board member of the Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Florida, and Frank Castor, who is a Judge in Palm Beach County. Betty Castor was the Director of the Patel Center for Global Solutions at the University of South Florida and currently serves as chair of the J. William Fulbright Scholarship Board.[2] She also works with Ruth's List Florida,[3] a group dedicated to recruiting and aiding qualified Democratic women candidates, receiving the Architect of Change Award [4] from them in May 2018.


Castor was born and grew up in Glassboro, New Jersey,[5] the daughter of Gladys F. (née Wright) and Joseph L. Bowe. Her father was the mayor of Glassboro.[6] She attended Glassboro State College (now Rowan University), earning her bachelor's degree. While at Glassboro she was active in organizing a drive to support education in Uganda. Because of her activities, President John F. Kennedy appointed her to a diplomatic mission to attend the independence celebrations in Kampala, Uganda in 1962. Following her graduation in 1963, she attended Teachers College, Columbia University for a summer and subsequently went back to Uganda and taught secondary school as part of the Teachers for East Africa program. While in East Africa, Castor participated in a project to help lead two dozen African school girls to the summit of Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro, the first all-female expedition to accomplish this.[citation needed]

She returned to the U.S. in 1965, married Donald Castor and moved to Dade County, Florida where Castor was a teacher while studying for her Master of Education degree at the University of Miami. While living and studying in Miami, Castor's first daughter, Katherine (Kathy), was born. Kathy Castor is currently the Congressional representative of Florida's 11th congressional district, which includes portions of greater Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida.

After receiving her Master's Degree in 1968, Castor moved with her family to Tampa, where she joined the League of Women Voters's Tampa chapter, becoming its president in 1970. Castor's second daughter, Karen, was born in 1968 and her son, Frank, who currently serves as judge in Palm Beach County, Florida, in 1970. In 1972, she ran for the Hillsborough County Commission. An advocate of environmental protection and governmental reform, Castor faced ten opponents in the Democratic Primary and faced a general election opponent as well. She won all the contests, becoming the first woman ever elected to the County Commission. During her term, she chaired the Environmental Protection Commission and became chair of the Board of County Commissioners in 1976. Later in 1976 she was elected to the State Senate and served until 1978 when she ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor. She was elected again to the Florida Senate in 1982 and became the president pro tempore of the Senate in 1985, the first woman to hold the post. Castor served on numerous education committees and became chair of the appropriations sub-committee on education. She was the co-sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment (1977) and championed bills to end discrimination and fund spouse abuse centers statewide. She successfully sponsored legislation providing for the early childhood education program.[citation needed]

In 1986, Castor was elected statewide to the Florida Cabinet as Florida Education Commissioner, the first woman ever elected to the state cabinet. As Commissioner of Education, Castor served on the Board of Regents and as a member of the Community College Coordination Board. She worked with the legislature to fund the first statewide program to provide funding for the early childhood education program. She worked also with the Insurance Commissioner to develop the Healthy Kids program, providing health insurance for low-income children enrolled in public schools.[citation needed]

In 1989 Castor, who divorced in 1978, married Samuel P. Bell III, an attorney, and partner at Pennington, Moore, Wilkinson, Bell & Dunbar (a Tallahassee law firm).

President of the University of South Florida[edit]

In 1994 Castor became the first female president of the University of South Florida, one of the largest universities in the southeast with an enrollment of over 40,000 students, four campuses and a medical school. During her tenure, USF gained the Research I designation and the endowment tripled from US$65 million to just over US$200 million. The Honors Program was expanded dramatically and a major expansion of residential on-campus housing was approved. USF joined its sister institution, the University of Central Florida, in creating an academic and economic partnership, the I-4 High Technology Corridor. She pursued international exchanges with institutions in China, led a delegation of faculty and staff to the African Economic Summit in Harare, Zimbabwe and encouraged new opportunities for USF faculty to study abroad.[citation needed]

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards[edit]

From 1999 to 2002 Castor served as president for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.[7] The mission of the board is to build a system of high standards for education and encourage teachers throughout America to pursue its rigorous certification process.[8] The number of board certified teachers grew under Castor's leadership from about 2070 to 25,000 by 2003.[9] Financial incentives were developed in 48 states and hundreds of school districts.

Senate campaign, 2004[edit]

In the 2004 Senate campaign, Castor faced two Democratic candidates, Miami-Dade mayor Alex Penelas, Hollywood Congressman Peter Deutsch, and businessman Bernard Klein in the Democratic primary election.

Castor won the Democratic nomination on August 31. She was defeated, however, by Republican candidate Mel Martinez by 49.5% to 48.4% on November 2, 2004.[10] The overwhelming support for Martinez among Latinos effectively counterbalanced Castor's relatively high popularity among swing voters throughout the state.[citation needed]

Patel Center for Global Solutions[edit]

In January 2007, Betty Castor was appointed the Executive Director at the Patel Center for Global Solutions at the University of South Florida. In June 2009, Castor resigned as Executive Director of the Patel Center,[11] returning her focus back to education and politics. [12]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Castor concedes Florida Senate race". CNN. November 3, 2004. Retrieved December 4, 2007. Castor, 63, grew up in Glassboro, New Jersey.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 20, 2015. Retrieved October 12, 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
  8. ^ NBPTS Mission page Archived September 3, 2012, at
  9. ^ A 15 Year Retrospective Archived October 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ STATISTICS OF THE PRESIDENTIAL AND CONGRESSIONAL ELECTION OF NOVEMBER 2, 2004, Clerk of the House of Representatives, November 4, 2004, revised June 7, 2007. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  11. ^’s-executive-director-on-june-30-2009/
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 20, 2018. Retrieved June 20, 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Ralph Turlington
Education Commissioner of Florida
Succeeded by
Doug Jamerson
Academic offices
Preceded by
Robert Bryan
President of the University of South Florida System
Succeeded by
Thomas Tighe
Party political offices
Preceded by
Bob Graham
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Florida
(Class 3)

Succeeded by
Kendrick Meek