As a pioneering woman leader, Betty Castor can tell stories that would make women entering the workforce today blanch. Not yet a state senator, in 1974 County Commissioner Castor was ejected from a lunch meeting with HUD officials and the yet-to-arrive Mayor Dick Greco at members-only business dining room the University Club. The reason? She was a woman. Castor handled the incident with extraordinary grace and composure and called her friends in the news media once she got to the hot dog cart down at street level. The incident made significant headlines, even drawing acclaimed journalist Calvin Trillin to Tampa to write about it .
Castor was not intimidated by the treatment she received. She went on to represent her district in, then become President Pro Tempore of, the Florida Senate; was elected the Florida Commissioner of Education; and was the first woman President of the University of South Florida, presiding over a period of great change and progress. This is to say nothing of her years enthusiastically teaching children in Uganda (and leading a group of girls to the summit of Kilimanjaro, without male accompaniment), raising a few of the next generation of respected legislators, and holding the presidency of the League of Women Voters.
As part of the growing USF Libraries Profiles of Women in Leadership Initiative, the documents, photos, videos, and other materials that illustrate Betty Castor’s career are just one of several collections in the USF Tampa Library’s Special Collections Department that tell the story of accomplished women leaders and the challenges they have overcome. This initiative brings together the personal papers, public office archives, and oral histories of Florida’s women leaders, including Tampa City Council Member and Hillsborough County Commissioner Jan Platt, Florida First Lady Mary Jane Martinez, and Tampa City Council Member Linda Saul Sena.
Betty Castor understood the centrality of the USF Library from the moment she became USF’s president in 1994. And today Castor sees the big-picture relevance. She says, ”It is the central resource for the University and represents the intellectual capacity of a place… I am particularly proud of Special Collections, because I’m intensely interested in the history of Florida and change in Florida, and they have stepped forward to make the Florida Studies Initiative a priority.”
An exceptional recent USF graduate has been chosen to work on the Profiles of Women in Leadership Initiative: Stacy Dolan graduated Summa Cum Laude in Spring of 2014 with a major in political science and a minor in philosophy. Her honors college thesis focused on women’s and LGBT political activism, and she knows something about leadership, as a past president of College Democrats at USF. When asked why this project is important to her, she says, “We today see many women becoming increasingly aware of their place in politics, what it means to be a woman in politics, and what it means to be a woman outside of politics. This project is incredibly important because without understanding where we’ve come from, we will never understand how to move forward.”
Why has Castor chosen to give in support of the USF Libraries Profiles of Women in Leadership project? Her gift comes at a moment in time when telling the history of Florida accurately, and illustrating women’s increasing role in public governance is pivotal. “Let’s not lose the opportunity to capture this recent past. Here we have an institution with the capacity to do it. I like the idea of organizing it through the library because you can connect to all of the other things happening. I hope that in my own personal stepping forward and trying to build some understanding of the role of women as they enter the public arena, we can provide an incentive for others to do so.”
Make history. Make a financial gift in support of the USF Libraries Profiles of Women in Leadership Initiative. Contact the USF Libraries Development office here or by calling (813) 974-4433 .