Joe Kustelski ’78
Blame it on the rain
When Joe Kustelski earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from UTSA in 1978, he planned to stay right where he was, earn a postgraduate degree and eventually enter academia. But the day before he was to register for classes, Kustelski had a small mishap in a San Antonio rainstorm.
"I drove through a low-water crossing a little bit too fast on Callaghan Road, and when I came out the other side of it, my tailpipe and muffler had been left behind," he recalls. Suddenly Kustelski, who had financed his own undergraduate education and was about to incur the expenses of graduate school, found himself with no vehicle and no funds to secure a new one. A trip to the career services office—where he hoped to find a job to help finance his car repair—changed his life when a counselor suggested he consider pharmaceutical sales.
"I’d never heard of pharmaceutical sales," Kustelski says, "so I wasn’t really listening." Then, the counselor dropped two little words: company car.
"I heard that, and said, ‘I’m there,’ " he says. "I needed a car and I thought, I’ll go do something for a few years, just enough to stop being poor. Then, I’ll come back [to academia]." Now, more than 30 years later, Kustelski is the field sales director for the Northeast Area Women’s Health Care Division of Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, leading a team of 75 marketing the company’s family planning products. "I’m here because it rained," he says.
Kustelski, now based in New Jersey, worked his way up with Bayer, starting as a sales rep and moving through various management positions before assuming his current title in 2004. "I’ve always felt challenged, and I feel like my education never stopped," he says. "The consequences to what we do are about quality of life for people and their future."
Looking ahead to retirement, Kustelski hopes to move back to Texas and pursue his avocations: hunting, car clubs (notably those supporting 1965 Shelby Cobra automobiles) and continuing his involvement with UTSA, where he now is a sustaining member of the President’s Associates and a lifetime member of the Alumni Association.
"UTSA played a great role in where I am today, not only because of the inspiration provided to me by my professors, but because of that career counselor," Kustelski says. "Now, I can’t see why anyone would go anywhere else."
— Jennifer Roolf Laster