Fresno City Council Vice President Paul Caprioglio broke the “no crying rule” at the beginning of the Dec. 10 Council meeting in downtown Fresno, when he was brought to tears as Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro surprised him with the President’s Medal of Distinction.
“As an attorney, I’m rarely speechless… But at this moment, I’m just so overwhelmed. This is priceless,” Caprioglio said, visibly moved as he lifted the medal that hung around his neck by a red and blue ribbon. “I’m proud to wear this and to be affiliated with the university. … I’m just overwhelmed. … I appreciate you and I’ll always be a Bulldog and continue my service to the university until the day I die. So I thank everybody, I think that’s about all I’m good for right now.”
Caprioglio, a Fresno State alumnus, represents District 4, which includes the Fresno State campus. He called Fresno State “the crown jewel of District 4.”
“Paul’s bold service has been instrumental in further strengthening ties between his alma mater and our surrounding neighborhoods within his district, and for that, we are extraordinarily grateful,” Castro said. “I am pleased to bestow this honor on our longtime friend whose enlightened and compassionate leadership is a gift to our students, the University and the entire City of Fresno.”
Following the Medal of Distinction presentation, councilmembers took turns honoring Castro, who will begin a new role next month as chancellor of the 23-campus California State University system, the nation’s largest public university system with nearly half a million students.
“I also want to thank you and your wife, First Lady [Mary] Castro, for your service to the Fresno community,” said District 2 Councilmember Michael Karbassi. “I was [at Fresno State] in Dr. Welty’s time and it’s amazing how much the campus has changed and you’ve taken us to a whole new level. Being the first Californian to lead the CSU system is very fitting. It’s the largest system of higher education, but we love you in Fresno and you’re still a Fresnan, and we’re never going to forget about you and you always have a home here and I mean that.”
Karbassi then presented Castro with a small stuffed Bulldog.
“I’ve had that since I was a student,” Karbassi said. “He has been through a lot. I never thought I’d be able to take him to City Hall with me. And I’ve been so blessed to do that. I want you to take him to the CSU chancellor’s office so he can keep moving up, if you don’t mind, as a very small token of our gratitude. But never forget, we’re definitely a part of your roots and we appreciate your service to our community.”
Established in 1993, the President’s Medal of Distinction is the highest non-degree award presented by Fresno State. It is given to citizens of the region, state or nation whose contributions in the area of professional achievements or public service are of national or international significance.
Caprioglio graduated from Fresno State in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He earned his juris doctorate from University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law. He began his professional career in the California State Attorney General’s Office, going on to prosecute murder cases for the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office. He later established a private law practice.
A Fresno native, Caprioglio and his wife, Rhonda, have lived in the district he represents for more than 40 years.
He was sworn in as a member of the Fresno City Council in January 2013 and has served two terms as the Council president — in 2016 and 2019. During his time on the City Council, Caprioglio has focused on public safety and safer neighborhoods. He became trained in repairing streetlights and now spends time nearly every week repairing or replacing damaged streetlights.
“It has been an honor to work with Councilman Caprioglio,” said Larry Salinas, executive director of government relations for Fresno State. “He has been a tireless advocate for not only Fresno State but for all of District 4. He truly embodies the spirit of this award.”
Previous recipients of the President’s Medal of Distinction have included Virginia Eaton and Joan Eaton (2020), Jon Parish Peedeand John E. Horstmann (2019), Fred Ruiz (2018), Fran Pavley (2016), Ray Steele Jr. (2015), Justice Armando Rodriguez (2015), Justice Marvin Baxter (2014), John “Phil” Larsen (2014), Jim Nielsen (2012), Richard D. Hovannisian (2012), Satoshi “Fibber” Hirayama (2009), Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (2006), His Holiness Karekin II (2005), Robert E. Coyle (2003), M. Victoria Kazan (1998), Kenneth L. Maddy (1998), Meline Kalfayan (1998), Joe Williams (1994) and George Kauffman (1994).