Equipped with a WMU engineering degree, Jim Castellano takes on the automotive world

Contact: Liz VandenHeede

WMU alumnus Jim Castellano and Hitachi Astemo Americas President and CEO Tim Clark visited campus in May 2023 and took a tour of Floyd Hall. Castellano and Clark are pictured with WMU faculty and members of the Sunseeker Solar Car team on their visit.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Jim Castellano, B.S.E.’87, vice president design engineering xEV for Hitachi Astemo Americas, is the recipient of Western Michigan University's inaugural Spire Award, bestowed by the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences to an alumnus who has achieved exceptional success in their field, provided outstanding service to their communities and had significant influence on young Bronco engineers. Castellano, who spent 35 years with Ford Motor Company, and his wife established a scholarship to support sophomores, juniors and seniors finishing their engineering degree.

Each year, the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences honors alumni who are making an impact in their fields and in their communities with the Alumni Excellence Award. For 2023, the college announced two additional categories of alumni awards: the Spire Award and the Emerging Alumni Award, which recognizes individuals 5-to-10-years post-graduation.

Castellano discusses his inspiration

How do you stay involved with WMU and the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences?

"First, engineering is a lifelong, learning commitment. After graduating I continued a personal relationship with my professors and WMU and had always felt comfortable chatting with them about challenges I was facing in the automotive industry. I also believe in the concept of payback and what better way to do this than supporting the university that gave me my start."

Tell us about your career journey. 

"I had a fantastic career with Ford and worked in a variety of engineering positions, including one designing in-tank fuel delivery systems for Ford of Europe to help meet the new emission standards. I then took on positions as a supervisor in a manufacturing plant and later as a supervisor developing new electrical systems for vehicles.

"I loved working on vehicle programs and innovative technologies, and in 1999, I was happy to be selected as a member on Ford’s first Hybrid vehicle. The hybrid power train was a Ford first and is truly the highlight of my career. Once approved for production, I was given the green light to build a team of engineers that wanted to change the way we thought about traditional power trains. Four years later, the 2005 Escape Hybrid was launched. The next program was the Fusion Hybrid, which won Motor Trend Car of the Year. That was so cool, and the team celebrated with Chairman Bill Ford and former president and CEO, Alan Mulally. It is not often you can be part of a wonderful team that delivers a first in a 100-year-old company, but that team of about 120 engineers
did it to perfection. 

Castellano (right) is pictured with Dr. Steven Butt, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

"I worked with Hitachi Astemo throughout my career and when I was retiring from Ford, the president of Hitachi Astemo asked if I would be interested in taking on the responsibility to develop and grow the electrification team in America. I jumped at this offer. The rest is history. As vice president of xEV Engineering, the team has grown three-fold and is now making high voltage motors, inverters and high voltage battery controllers. I have been blessed with working alongside so many great people at two great companies."

What advice would you give young Broncos, preparing to graduate and start their careers?

"My advice is pretty simple: Do something you are passionate about. Take on challenges outside your comfort zone; don’t worry about making mistakes as you will learn from each one of them. Be honest, ask questions and give 120%. Lastly, use the skills you have learned at WMU and create greatness."

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.