Eli Castro and Tracy Locke Castro Bring Their Johnnie Perspective to Life
June 10, 2022 | By Patricia Moore
Eli Castro (SF94) and Tracy Locke Castro (SF95) created a life and a legacy from their pursuit of knowledge of the Great Books at St. John’s College. Their daughters Ella and Clarissa attended Summer Academy on both campuses. Ella just graduated from American University, and Clarissa will join the Santa Fe freshman class this fall. Eli credits a love of books and conversations that propelled them to St. John’s as foundational for their family.
“When the parents are Johnnies, we’re always going to be talking about books,” said Eli, an executive at professional services company Deloitte. “This helps us have great conversations because we have a common language.” Tracy, an independent web developer, explained: “Through middle school we read stories out loud to them, including the children’s Homer.” She remembered the girls exclaiming, “We’re on our Odyssey!” as they played.
She grew up on a rural Texas cattle ranch and attended a boarding high school in Dallas, Texas, where one of her teachers knew about the Great Books program. “I found a St. John’s brochure at a career fair and thought, ‘I am at the beginning of my life, and I want to know the answers to the big questions. However, all the books are in the library.’” To make up her mind, Tracy visited St. John’s, attended seminar, and was “amazed” at how the conversations continued late into the night. “It felt so authentic, along with the blurring of your academic life and your personal life, hiking in the mountains together,” she said.
All in the St. John’s family
After becoming friends at St. John’s and graduating, the couple married and raised their family in Texas. They could not have predicted their future careers while studying the Great Books. Tracy’s post-graduation journey initially led her back to her Amarillo, Texas, roots before going into public health nursing and teaching at the University of Texas at Austin. She transitioned to being a stay-at-home mom, and then to graphic design, web design, and development. “Our path is not straightforward,” Tracy said. “St. John’s is an education for the whole person. It helps you learn who you want to be, and the skills you can get later.”
Soon after receiving his diploma, Eli began a PhD in economics program at the University of Wisconsin, a direction he soon discovered was not right for him. “This isn’t working for me; do we have any leads?” he asked Jennifer Chenoweth (SFGI95), then director of career services in Santa Fe. She put him in touch with Aaron Rosenbaum (A89) who operated a small consulting business working with government clients. One week later, Eli moved to Washington, DC. “Absolutely, St. John’s got me that job,” said Eli, who began his consulting industry career through that fortuitous St. John’s introduction. He subsequently earned an MBA from the University of Texas and in 2005 joined Deloitte where he serves as a managing director focusing on higher education clients.
Two Summer Academy students, two trajectories
The couple’s eldest daughter, Ella, benefitted from her Summer Academy experiences even though she chose a different college, according to Eli. “We never pushed St. John’s,” he said. “I think discourse—civil discourse—is tricky right now. It matters as much doing a public policy degree at American [University] as it does for talking about books,” he explained. “Conversations about ideas in a certain inclusive way—listening to and responding to what people are saying—absolutely has value,” said Eli. “Summer Academy gives a little window into that. Clarissa loved the St. John’s conversations, and there never really was another choice even though she was accepted at other schools.”
What’s a college student to do? Ask an alum.
Recently Eli participated in an online workshop where he joined other alumni to answer questions from newly accepted students. Their concerns primarily focused on how employers view St. John’s, was there relevancy to the work world, and can one get into a good graduate school after St. John’s. “The answers were incredibly easy,” said Eli.
“When you start from St. John’s, you don’t have a direction; you’re just a college graduate,” said Eli. “Imagine a big meadow, and there’s no path through it. All of us who are on the other side have figured out a path. It’s really cloudy when you try to look forward; it’s obvious when you look backward,” he noted. “Anyone can explain their story to help make the post-graduate journey seem a little less scary, and that can be impactful,” he added.
Now the college offers more direct career preparation, according to Eli. “The way St. John’s summer internship program sets the bar in education—nobody does that—and that’s brilliant,” he said. “I say this because I work with higher education all the time.”
“The world is changing, evolving, and so is St. John’s,” adds Tracy. “The core of St. John’s is still there with the Great Books programs, and now there are many activities and career preparation opportunities that make St. John’s even better,” she said. “While I feel strongly that being an undergraduate isn’t about getting a skill so you can find a job, we do have to get jobs.”
Why should alumni care about future graduates?
Eli asserts that alumni support students for various reasons, “and for many of us, St. John’s was a transformational experience. For St. John’s to exist in a world that is becoming more and more specialized, our college is becoming more and more unique,” said Eli. “The Program allows people to learn to think in a way that’s difficult to learn in other places.”
“I want to help people find their way in the world,” he said. “If you’re the beneficiary of a beautiful experience like St. John’s, you owe it to the world to make sure it exists for those who come after you,” he concludes. “That’s how it is for me.”