Nelsen: “Amazed by his tenacity”
With President Nelsen's Support, Rodolfo Castillo Wins Multiple Awards


Rodolfo Castillo finished his bachelor’s degree through a long-distance program at Sacramento State later in life, in his 70s, in order to keep teaching preschool.

This achievement has been recognized within the Sacramento State community, the western United States, and now nationally.The University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) has named Mr. Castillo the 2017 Outstanding Continuing Education Student.

The award will be presented at UPCEA’s national convention in Chicago in March 2017. This honor follows UPCEA’s West Region honoring Mr. Castillo as the 2016 Outstanding Nontraditional Student.

As part of the awards nomination process, Sacramento State President Robert S. Nelsen personally wrote a letter of support. Here is the letter in its entirety:

July 7, 2016

To whom it may concern,

The most fulfilling part of my job as a university president is witnessing students succeeding. Universities are filled with stories of exceptional students, but it is my privilege to write to you today about one of the most outstanding, Rodolfo “Rudy” Castillo. I learned of Rudy’s incredible journey this past spring, and I was amazed by his tenacity and perseverance to achieve his dream of an education.

Rudy’s story includes many experiences that alone would make him extraordinary. As a young man, he joined the U.S. Navy which enabled him to rise above the poverty that he experienced growing up in the Philippines. He learned English and served in the U.S. Navy for 28 years. To support his family and his children’s dreams of a college education, he began working as a school custodian. Inspired by the teachers around him, he decided that he would go back to school to earn his bachelor’s degree so that he could teach preschool too. At age 72, he did just that.

I cannot begin to imagine how intimidating it must have been for him to enroll in classes largely occupied by students 50 years younger than him, but he did it. College is challenging for even the best prepared of students, and Rudy experienced the added difficulty of understanding academic reading and writing as a non-native English speaker. He will tell you that he wanted to give up and quit, but he never did.

Rudy is the personification of what it means to fight for your dreams and persevere through challenges. Rudy is a parent and works part-time, yet he still managed to graduate with honors in just three years. He is the American dream and exemplifies everything that is important and good about immigration. I am proud that he chose California State University, Sacramento to earn his degree. He is an inspiration to those around him, and I know that he will continue to motivate and influence both his future students and everyone who is lucky enough to be a part of his life.

Rudy is more than exceptional, and absolutely personifies what the University Professional and Continuing Education Association’s Outstanding Nontraditional Student Award represents. It is my honor to emphatically nominate Rudy for this award. His dedication to achieving his dream of a college education and his ability to push through significant challenges is inspirational. Thank you for your time and consideration of our nomination of Rodolfo “Rudy” Castillo.”


Robert S. Nelsen

Learn more about Mr. Castillo’s immigrant journey and see a photo gallery from the Spring 2016 Commencement at, “75 Years in the Making.”