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In Memoriam: Marjorie Castetter, Widow of Former Dean Robert Castetter

The Castetters

Marjorie Castetter, the widow of former California Western Dean Robert Castetter, passed away peacefully Sunday, March 7, at her home in La Mesa, Calif., at the age of 94.

Marge, as she was affectionately called, was known as the first lady of the law school, and played an active role in supporting her late husband in the development of California Western during its most crucial and formative years, from 1960 until Dean Castetter’s retirement from the faculty in 1985.

Gracious and low-key, Marge was a courageous and fierce advocate of California Western. She had excellent business sense and was a great judge of character. She studied at the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering before marrying Robert Castetter. They were married 62 years until his passing in 2009.

In remembering his mother, Bruce Castetter ’74 described her as “steel wrapped in the velvet of southern hospitality.”

Nowhere was this hospitality more apparent than at the countless events Marge hosted at the family home in La Mesa. These occasions were much more than social affairs, and there were always strategic objectives for the benefit of the law school behind every event.

Among Marge’s many accomplishments on behalf of the law school was the setting up of a social and support network for the spouses of California Western students during the 1960s, which often served to support the students themselves. She was instrumental in creating the law school’s Mexican Law Program in the 1960s. She also worked behind the scenes to help recruit top faculty to California Western, often persuading the candidates’ spouses to move to San Diego.

Michael Dessent, California Western’s Dean from 1986 to 1996, remarked that the couple worked tirelessly as a team for decades, focused on personal relationships with students and employees, getting to know all of them.

“Marge was particularly adept at hosting new students at their lovely home and taking a personal interest not just in their academic achievements but also in their welfare-emotionally, economically, and in so many other ways,” said Dessent. “She will be sorely missed but remembered in the chronicle of California Western. It was my honor to know her.”

Former California Western Dean Steven Smith knew the Castetters well and always enjoyed seeing Marge’s love for and understanding of California Western and its students.

“Marge was always a cheerleader for the law school,” remarked Smith. “She had a passion for the people of the law school and for the careers that graduates went on to enjoy. As Dean Castetter told me several times, ‘I could not have done it without her, that’s for sure.’”

Niels Schaumann, who served as Dean of California Western from 2012 to 2020 remarked, “She is a great loss to the California Western family, but she and the Dean will live on in the minds of all who knew them and in the values of California Western School of Law.”

Current California Western Dean Sean Scott, who began her tenure in August 2020, remarked, “Although I never had the pleasure of meeting Marge Castetter, the legacy she and her husband left is indelibly stamped into the ethos of Cal Western.”

Today’s California Western owes its existence to the wisdom, vision, and bold actions of the late Dean Castetter and his wife Marjorie.

“My father’s leadership of the law school was really a partnership—the two of them always working together while playing to their own strengths,” concluded Bruce.

“They devoted a large part of their lives to California Western,” he said. “Together, they put everything they had into the law school, and we are deeply proud of what they accomplished.”

Those wishing to honor Marge’s life may make a donation in her name to the Professor Robert K. Castetter and Marjorie B. Castetter Endowment by clicking here or by mailing a check to California Western School of Law, 225 Cedar Street, San Diego, CA 92101.

There will be a viewing on April 7 from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. and a memorial service on April 8 at 11:00 a.m. Both events will be held at the Erickson-Anderson Mortuary, 8390 Allison Avenue, La Mesa, CA 91942.