¡Viva UT! Always Home Sweet Home

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Jose Jr, Jose Sr, and Marta Castroverde

The Castroverde family’s Volunteer story spans decades and continents.

The Castroverde family’s journey to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, began with an escape from revolutionary Cuba during the 1960s and included stops in Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, and Spain throughout the years. Since 1975, when the first Castroverde arrived in Knoxville, seven more of the family have studied at UT.

One of the family’s most recent Volunteers, Jose Jr., graduated in December 2021 and was joined by many members of the family. His mother, Marta, pointed out at the time that Jose Jr.’s four years at UT helped him evolve from a somewhat timid teenager to a self-assured and outspoken adult.

“UT has helped him grow so much as a person,” Marta said, noting that Jose Jr. now knows what he wants from life.

Part of his plans include working for the multinational spirits giant, Bacardi, to which the family has distant ancestral ties and where multiple Castroverdes worked before him. Jose Jr. completed a summer internship there and hopes to become a Bacardi master blender, a prestigious role once held by his father, Jose Sr.

Jose Jr. also kept to his father’s path at UT, where both studied industrial engineering.

“Industrial engineering suited me best,” said Jose, Jr. “I like to think of myself as efficient. It was such a good fit because it helped polish my way of thinking, and now I know how to apply that when I enter the workforce.”

Siblings United

Each of his Castroverde siblings, as well as a cousin by another surname, attended UT and moved on to successful careers in Tennessee and beyond.

“It’s so special to share a Volunteer legacy with my family,” said Chelsie Worrell (’08), neé Castroverde. “UT’s nursing school was really tough, but it was one of the most meaningful and important experiences of my life. I truly find purpose in caring for others, and I have UT to thank for giving me the foundation and tools to achieve my dreams of becoming a nurse.”

The Castroverde family at Jose Jr's December 2021 graduation
From left: Chelsie (Worrell), Marta, Jose Jr., Jose Sr., Marta, and Ignacio

“I wouldn’t trade my four years at UT for anything,” said Stefan Castroverde (’11). “I joined Lambda Chi Alpha, and my fraternity brothers changed my entire experience. Many of them will be in my wedding this year. My major in hospitality management has also taught me customer centricity, which has helped me excel in my job at Bacardi.”

Worrell and Stefan are Jose Jr.’s older siblings and grew up in Nashville. They attended UT prior to his arrival, but his two younger siblings, Ignacio and Marta, are current students. The younger three hail from Malaga, Spain.

“Being away from home, you develop as a person,” said Jose Sr. “And being abroad, you learn to live with all different sorts of people. You become more tolerant and open minded. Attending UT was a very positive experience for me, and my kids have also shown a substantial positive change from their time at the university.”

The Castroverde family has had such a positive experience that their good word alone has increased the number of students attending UT from Spain, where Jose Sr.’s family has lived for over 20 years. This is according to Stephanie Sieggreen, UT’s director of international recruitment, with whom the youngest Castroverde siblings, Ignacio and Marta, work as international ambassadors.

Marta, majoring in kinesiology and named for her mother, meets and answers questions for prospective international students in her new role.

“This job is important for international students, so they can hear from others who have been in their place,” said Marta. “I get to tell them why I love it here and maybe make some new friends!”

“ Attending UT was a very positive experience for me, and my kids have also shown a substantial positive change from their time at the university. – Jose Castroverde Sr.

The Legacy’s First Leg

Eloy Castroverde's yearbook photo in the 1976 The Volunteer
Eloy Castroverde
1976 The Volunteer
yearbook photo

Jose Sr.’s brother, Eloy, was the first Castroverde to attend UT in 1975. He ran track in high school in Spain and wrote a letter to then Track and Field Head Coach Stan Huntsman, who encouraged him to apply.

Eloy ran the 400-meter hurdles for two years under Huntsman, who went on to lead the United States in track and field at the 1988 Olympics.

“I didn’t know anyone when I came to Knoxville, but running track fortunately came with an almost built-in set of friends,” said Eloy. “Most of my UT memories involve running, sports, and studying.”

When asked what his UT education contributed to his success, Eloy quickly answered, “I’d say everything.”

He then added, “The maturity that I gained by going to UT, being on my own, and getting a good education—that prepared me. I learned the importance of continuous learning, and learning with humility, something I’ve tried to pass on to my children.”

Eloy photographing a UT game
Eloy Castroverde photographing a UT game

Eloy went on to compete three times in the World Triathlon Championship for Bermuda, where he lived for some 20 years. Following his retirement as president of Bacardi International Limited, he has since developed a robust photography business, Greenfield Images, with an emphasis on nature and wildlife. He also participates in sports photography workshops at UT and has taken photos at football games in Neyland Stadium.

Eloy now lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, and Jose Sr. in Malaga, but the two reunite at UT regularly for football games and relive their time as students together.

“Eloy would visit when I was still in high school, and part of what interested me in UT was how he’d describe the sports culture,” said Jose Sr. “I also saw how independent he’d become in Knoxville and wanted that for myself. I was fortunate to have Eloy stay an extra year to do graduate courses part time while I completed my freshman year.”

While Eloy studied business and marketing, Jose Sr. chose engineering. UT has maintained a strong engineering program, and Jose Sr.’s education assisted his career. He eventually retired as director of one of Bacardi’s bottling facilities in Spain, where he met his wife, Marta.

“Another reason I encouraged my kids to come to UT was so that they could have a similar experience with their siblings, like Eloy and me,” said Jose. Sr.

Passing the Baton: Today’s Generation Carries the Torch

Just like their father and uncle, brothers Jose Jr. and Ignacio also lived together at UT. And Ignacio has also chosen to purse a degree in industrial engineering.

“My brother provided great guidance, especially my first year when I was still very young, missing home in Malaga, and needing help to figure things out,” said Ignacio. Since Ignacio caught up to some of the higher-level industrial engineering courses, the brothers attended some of the same classes.

Jose Jr. helped Ignacio adapt to life in the United States, and the two helped one another study.

“We did our homework together and, if there was a group project, we’d work with each other,” said Jose Jr. “I helped him get adjusted to life at UT, but he’s a smart guy and helped me just as much my last couple years of industrial engineering.”

Ignacio will follow his brother to the commencement stage this May and will begin work in Italy with Martini & Rossi later this year.

They hail from around the world, but members of the Castroverde family have followed one another across the same graduation stage at UT over the past five decades. While they had to leave their home country due to political strife, today they have a new home together at UT.