- President's Medal for Excellence (1990)
- Bloomington, Indiana
- Presenter: Thomas Ehrlich
- National Academies (1990)
- American Academy of Arts and Sciences
- Guggenheim Fellow (1967)
Héctor-Neri Castañeda was born in Gautemala in 1924.
Dr. Castañeda came to the United States in 1949 to study philosophy at the University of Minnesota, where he completed a B.A., an M.A. and a Ph.D. under Wilfred Sellars.. After completing his Ph.D. there in 1954, he returned to his native country with the expectation that he would remain there as a teacher. He soon found, however, that the political climate was one which made it impossible to do philosophy in anything like the way in which he wanted, even needed, to do it; so he sought out and won a fellowship which allowed him to do post-doctoral work at Oxford. He then held, briefly, a position at Duke University before he was recruited in 1957 by George Nakhnikian, now Professor Emeritus at IUB, who was starting to build a truly distinguished department of philosophy at Wayne State University. In the year after Professor Nakhnikian's move to IU, Dr. Castañeda served as chair of the department at Wayne State.
Somewhat earlier, in 1966, Hector founded the journal NOÛS, of which he remained the editor until the time of his death. NOÛS quickly came to be regarded as one of the most prestigious philosophy journals. In 1969 Hector followed George Nakhnikian to IU as professor of philosophy. In 1974 he became the Mahlon Powell Professor of Philosophy. From 1978 to 1981 he served the University as its first Dean of Latino Affairs. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1967 and received research grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. During many summers, he directed NEH seminars for college teachers, as well as a similar year-long seminar.
In addition to more than one hundred articles, Hector wrote several books, the most important of which were THE STRUCTURE OF MORALITY (1974) and THINKING AND DOING (1975). An active lecturer both in this country and abroad, he held temporary positions both in Heidelberg and in Rotterdam. At the Erasmus University in the latter city, he was appointed for a semester to the very prestigious position of Tinbergen Professor. He received honorary Doctor of Humanities degrees from Governors State University in Illinois and the Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala. His work was honored in a colloquium at the University of Cincinnati in 1979 and also in Freiburg, Germany, in 1986. In 1979-80 he served as President of the Central Division of the American Philosophical Association.
In 1990 Hector was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In the fall of that year there was a special ceremony at IUB in his honor; on that occasion he received the President's Medal from President Ehrlich. A few weeks before his death, Dr. Castañeda returned to Guatemala, where he received that country's highest award, the Order del Quetzal, in a ceremony at the National Theatre.