Introducing the new

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval says he’s been preparing for this opportunity during his two decades on campus

By Eddie Hughes

Dr. Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval is known for speaking several languages, playing the piano and zooming across campus on a scooter. He has a love for food — recreating recipes that have meaning to him and his family but also indulging in the richness of the history and culture behind every dish.

And he has a passion for the Valley and the power of Fresno State — which is just part of what led to his selection in May as the ninth president in the University’s 110-year history.

In January, after Joseph I. Castro became chancellor of the 23-campus California State University system, Jiménez-Sandoval began serving as interim president of the University following 20 years in a number of progressive positions including professor, department chair, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities and most recently provost and vice president of Academic Affairs.

Jiménez-Sandoval grew up on a Fowler farm after his family immigrated from Mexico to the Central Valley when he was a child. He is married to Dr. Mariana Anagnostopoulos, a professor in the Department of Philosophy, and they have two sons, Arion and Leo.

President Sandoval and family

Dr. Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, son Leo, wife Dr. Mariana Anagnostopoulos, son Arion.

Jiménez-Sandoval sat down for an exclusive Q&A to give Fresno State Magazine readers a taste of his vision for the future.

FSMag: How did you learn you were selected as Fresno State’s new president?

Jiménez-Sandoval: I was at home, and Chancellor Castro called me at 7:50 p.m. We had just finished dinner, and Mariana, Ari, Leo and I were all at the table talking. After receiving the news, I cried for joy and hugged my family. I felt excited, relieved and in awe of this opportunity and responsibility.

How has your role as interim prepared you to tackle this responsibility?

It seems that I have been preparing for this role for more than 20 years. My time in the classroom has given me a deep appreciation for the unlimited talent of our students, while the roles of dean of the College of Arts and Humanities and provost and vice president for Academic Affairs gave me a clear understanding of the breadth and scope of our faculty’s research and creative activities, and their dedication to our students. As interim president, I was able to see our profound and multifaceted impact on our region — from athletics’ impressive following in the greater region and its ability to unite us all, to the ways our alumni power every sector of Valley life and influence California and the world. My time as interim president also gave me the insight necessary to formulate a vision for our University in which, together, we will chart the next level of excellence.

What would surprise people most about you?

I’m a foodie, and love trying food from all parts of the world. I’m a good cook (I have a great crêpe recipe). And I’m a good handyman — I put in 23 double-pane windows in my home, added custom molding on every window, installed my sprinkler system and installed pavers to make a new patio area. I also prune my fruit trees at home.  

What makes you the right person for the job?

I have a passion for Fresno State, integrated with years of experience building relationships, both within the University and in our community. I have personal insight on agriculture, see the impressive potential of our engineering, business and STEM fields to innovate our economy in the creation of new jobs, and know first-hand the transcendental value of teaching, the social sciences, the arts and the humanities in furthering dialogue that promotes human bonds and well-being.

What are your priorities for ensuring that Fresno State continues to rise both academically and athletically?

Fresno State is a clear leader in the fifth-largest city in California. Athletics has the unique power to bring us all together; it’s an incredible unifier, and we all gather to cheer for our Bulldogs and become one big Red Wave. Just as we intend to build on our widely recognized brand in sports, we also intend to promote and showcase the transformative energy of our academics, the importance of our alumni in the region and the incredible and palpable impact of state investment and private philanthropic support on sustaining and uplifting this most productive Central Valley that feeds the world.

What do you want alumni and supporters of the University to know about you?

With the full support of my family, I’m wholly committed to taking our University to the next level of excellence, and to showcasing the impressive leadership we have in uplifting the quality of life for everyone in the Valley. I admire our diversity and marvel at living in the ninth most diverse city in the United States. We come from different parts of the world and espouse different cultures and beliefs, yet we have all made this fertile Valley of ours our home. I love that about Fresno, as it fosters a tightly-woven community.

— Eddie Hughes is senior editor for Fresno State Magazine. BoNhia Lee contributed to this story.