Phil Castellano, CHNS ’91

Although Phil Castellano, CHNS '91, grew up outside Manhattan in one of the nation's most densely populated areas, he says he discovered people when he became a student at the University of Delaware.

"The University of Delaware offers a real cross section of the East Coast," the graduate of UD's Sports Management Program says. "There was a high value placed on relationships. That was very important to me while I was there, and it has continued to be important to me ever since."

Castellano says that it was this social atmosphere, above all else, that shaped his career path as well as his college experience. Currently serving as the vice president of visitor services at the recently opened National Constitution Center on Philadelphia's Independence Mall, Castellano is responsible for everything from marketing to ticket sales to, most important of all, putting smiles on the faces of the center's guests.

If visitor response is anything to go by, he's doing an outstanding job.

In its first month after opening July 4, the $185 million center drew more than 84,000 visitors and elicited reactions ranging from simple curiosity to genuine amazement. "I've seen visitors who are truly astounded by how the exhibits capture the spirit of the Constitution," Castellano says. "This is not a static, stand-back-and-read type of museum. It's a hands-on, living experience."

Clearly, Castellano is in his element, but it hasn't been without a climb. Hired by the First Union Spectrum straight from a 12-credit, unpaid internship with the Philadelphia Flyers, Castellano spent five years working his way up through the ranks until he was hired as a facilities manager for the Franklin Institute. After serving as a member of a voluntary planning committee for the Constitution Center, he got his break in February 2001, when he was hired to guide the project on a full-time basis.

"This was just a hole in the ground," he says, recalling the early stages. "What we began with was really an idea and a set of drawings. We had to make a lot of alterations and take a lot into consideration. Turning the concept into the structural reality took a tremendous amount of planning and teamwork."

"When I entered the University and started taking classes on how to manage public facilities, things really clicked for me," he explains. "There are real rewards that go along with providing the public with enjoyable experiences. As an occupation, it's extremely gratifying to be able to entertain and educate people when they're not working. I knew early on that I wanted to serve this audience, because what I'm giving them is not a product that they feel obligated to purchase. The people who come through the doors of this center are here because they want to enjoy themselves and learn something new."

That something new, according to Castellano, is how the Constitution still lives and breathes in contemporary American life. "The Constitution is not an historic piece of paper that 39 men decided to sign in the summer of 1787 to serve our country at that time," he says. "What it is is a relevant idea that is intrinsic in everyday American life and that has provided for many of our liberties and our enduring freedom to be who we are and do what we want to do. It didn't just do that in 1787 and quit. It's done that through the centuries, and it continues to do it every single day. What the Constitution Center does is portray that vitality through the use of interactive exhibits, artifacts and live programs."

Citing the Sports Management Program and, in particular, Prof. Roger Spacht as contributing factors to his success, Castellano says that UD prepared him well for both the hard work and its payoffs.

—Becca Hutchinson

published 2004 in UD Messenger