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September 20, 1999

History professor appointed to National Endowment for the Humanities

By Barbara McKenna

A UCSC historian is one of five people to be named by President Clinton to serve on the 26-member board of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Pedro Castillo, an associate professor of history, was named as one of five new members to serve on the National Council on the Humanities, the advisory board of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The nominees were identified in an announcement released by the White House on September 8. Their appointments will be made official following Senate approval.
Pedro Castillo photo
Pedro Castillo

The National Council on the Humanities advises NEH Chairman William Ferris on policies and programs and grant allocations. Members serve six-year terms.

Castillo is well prepared for the new duties he will take on, having served as a member of the California Council for the Humanities, an NEH-affiliated program, since last January. Among his priorities as an NEH council member will be to support research in nontraditional subject areas examining such issues as race, class, and gender.

"In the last few decades, studies in the humanities have broadened out from the traditional Western canon. I want to encourage these inclusive perspectives that emphasize the significance of the histories and cultures of marginalized gender, ethnic, and class groups," he said.

Castillo is co-founder and a former director of UCSC's Chicano/Latino Research Center. His teaching and research focus on the history and politics of Mexican Americans in the U.S. His most recent book is The American Nation (Prentice-Hall, 1998), a textbook on American history that has been adopted by a number of school districts for their junior high school curricula. Along with his academic work, Castillo is extensively involved in the local community.

"I feel very strongly that faculty should relate their work at the university to the community," he said. Castillo serves on the board of trustees of the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County; on the board of the Pajaro Valley Health Trust; and as chair of the planning commission for the city of Watsonville. He served as a Clinton delegate in the 1992 and 1996 Democratic National Conventions and is considering serving as a delegate again for the 2000 convention.

The approval process leading to the White House announcement of Castillo's nomination involved an FBI background check and took a year and a half from the time he was invited to submit his name until the announcement. The process will not be completely finalized until the Senate approves the Clinton appointees. But, Castillo said placidly, "Some people have told me that this is moving relatively fast."

The NEH is a federal agency with an annual budget of more than $110 million. Funds are used to support research, education, museum exhibitions, documentaries, preservation, and other activities in the humanities.

The other four Clinton appointees are Linda Lee Aaker, an attorney for an Austin, Texas, law firm; Edward Ayers, a history professor at the University of Virginia; Peggy Prenshaw, a faculty member in the Louisiana State University's Department of English; and Theodore Striggles, an arts and intellectual property lawyer in New York.

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