Wednesday morning Richard A. Castro, Chair of the Council on Regional Economic Expansion and Educational Development (CREEED) Board was awarded the 2021 Texas Higher Education Distinguished Service Award.
“My grandmother came to this country believing that with education and hard work, anyone could be a success,” said Richard A. Castro. “That was true for me, and over the past four decades, I’ve tried to find ways to help the many hard-working students out there excel academically and achieve their potential. It is an honor to have this work recognized by higher education leaders across the state.”
This statewide award was presented by members of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas (ICUT), in partnership with the Council of Public University Presidents and Chancellors (CPUPC) and the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC), during a virtual celebration.
Nominated by several Texas higher education leaders, the award recognizes Castro for his extraordinary work as an educator and his positive impact on the education of Texans through philanthropy, leadership, and service.
Castro is just the second El Pasoan to receive this prestigious honor. Eddie Rodriguez, Executive Director of CREEED, issued the following statement on Richard’s accomplishment:
“We are proud to congratulate Richard Castro on this significant award, and for the statewide recognition it embodies. For over 30 years, Richard has been dedicated to increasing educational attainment in El Paso, across the state and nationally.
As an educator and businessman, Richard has made significant contributions to education; including setting up a scholarship fund that has awarded more than $35 million in scholarships to over 17,000 Hispanic students pursuing a college degree and founding nonprofits dedicated to improving educational attainment in El Paso.
In 2014, he helped to establish CREEED and, with every step, amplifies our mission of helping more El Paso students graduate from high school equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to attend and succeed in college.
As Board Chairman, Richard has also led our organization in increasing dual-credit and early college enrollment across El Paso school districts, bringing new, high-caliber academic options for students and parents, and establishing transformative partnerships with higher education institutions to improve educator development and student preparation for post-secondary success without remediation.
It is our privilege to congratulate Richard on this high honor. The CREEED Board of Directors, but most importantly, students and educators across the region, are grateful for his leadership and generosity to our community.”
“Richard Castro’s remarkable and extensive record of support to students and higher education institutions across Texas is unparalleled,” said Texas State University President Denise Trauth. “Texas State University is proud to have nominated Mr. Castro. His generous contributions to our university, including most recently the Bobcat-to-Bobcat COVID-19 scholarship fund, has earned him the distinction of a Texas State University Hero.”
Castro, a child of immigrants whose parents settled in Del Rio, graduated from Texas State University in San Marcos. Castro taught at Eagle Pass ISD before serving as City Manager of Del Rio. He went on to open a McDonald’s franchise in El Paso and quickly became the company’s largest Hispanic owner, with 27 restaurants in Texas and more than 1,000 employees. He also pioneered the chain’s breakfast burrito.
“TACC is proud to recognize Mr. Castro’s contributions to higher education and especially community colleges,” said TACC President/CEO Jacob Fraire. “As a native El Pasoan, I know firsthand the impact of Richard Castro’s hard work and dedication to the El Paso community and college students across our great state.”
“Mr. Castro first became involved at Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) when his son enrolled but quickly proved his passion for promoting equitable access to higher education by joining our Board of Trustees,” said OLLU President Diane Melby, EdD. “Richard understands the power higher education has to lift a person, a family, and a community. Congratulations, Richard, this award is well deserved.”
Castro remained committed to education and mentorship even as he grew his businesses. As former president of the McDonald’s Hispanic Owner/Operator Association (MHOA), Castro initiated the Hispanic American Commitment to Educational Resources (HACER) Scholarship Program, one of the largest scholarship programs for Hispanic students in the nation.
HACER has awarded more than $28 million to help Hispanic students pursue a college degree since 1985. In 2019, Castro initiated a partnership with El Paso Community College (EPCC), the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), and McDonald’s to provide scholarships to El Paso students wishing to attend either institution.
Beyond scholarship programs, Richard has also created a legacy of improving education outcomes through his involvement in nonprofit organizations. In 2014, Castro helped launch the Council on Regional Economic Expansion and Educational Development (CREEED), a nonprofit that unites business and philanthropic leaders with local school districts and universities to dramatically increase the number of El Paso young people completing higher education degrees.
Earlier in his career, Castro also helped found Community en Acción, a network of Hispanic community leaders in the El Paso region.
Throughout his career, Castro has been a generous mentor and supporter of scholarship programs. In addition to his work with HACER and CREEED, he is a member of the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation, which provides local high school students facing adversity with college scholarships, and he currently sits on the Board of Trustees of Our Lady of the Lake University, an ICUT member school in San Antonio.
Distinguished Service Award recipients are selected by the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas (ICUT), the Council of Public University Presidents and Chancellors (CPUPC), and the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC). The award has been presented 41 times in the past 43 years.
For more information about CREEED and their mission, click here to visit their website.