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Until He Found Phi Phi, Manuel Calero '98 Believed Greek Life Wasn’t for Him

AXP Had Everything He Was Looking ForMany men who enter Greek Life take comfort in finding brothers like themselves, sharing a passion for the same sport, interests, or backgrounds. But that was the exact reason Manuel Calero ’98 didn’t want to join a fraternity. Seeking a diverse college experience, Manuel simply could not imagine being part of a group that seemed so similar.

“I met brothers from fraternities during my freshman year and thought they were interesting and fun,” he explains. “But I realized that most brothers in any given fraternity were brought together for a specific reason or interest. I remained friends with those I met, but decided that Greek Life, as I knew it as a freshman, was not for me.”

But Manuel changed his mind when he discovered Phi Phi towards the conclusion of his freshman year.

“I met a couple of AXP brothers and thought they were equally interesting and fun, but they were very different in backgrounds and interests,” he recalls. “I realized that in AXP, there was no single attribute which defined the brotherhood. It was that diversity that attracted me to rush and eventually pledge AXP.”

Although Manuel didn’t live in the house (he rented an off-campus house with a few brothers), he was still very much involved in the activities of the Phi Phi house.

“I went to the Engineering School and had to work throughout my time at Penn, so most of my college memories are about hard work and studying,” he admits. “Many of my brothers were equally as busy, but as we finished our work, we all gathered at the house and ate together, had fun, and bonded. As the weekend came around, we prepared for epic parties! I remember the floor of the house shaking with seemingly hundreds of people dancing and having a good time.”

With a pledge class of 20, Manuel got to know his fellow brothers well, forming bonds that will last a lifetime.

“We were all as diverse as you can imagine, yet we would come together at the house, on road trips, and in community service projects,” he says. “Today, I stay in touch with many of the active brothers that were at Phi Phi in the early and mid-’90s. While I see many of those guys every couple of years, I get together most often with Yoram LePair ’98, Eduardo Briceño ’98, Gerry Burgos ’98, Mike Ross ’99, and Bill Hill ’98. In fact, Yoram, Ed, Gerry, and I are traveling together this summer to Majorca, Spain, along with our families and significant others. It’s a tradition that goes back to our first road trip as young pledges back in 1995!”

Today, when not meeting up or traveling with his Phi Phi brothers, Manuel can be found in Arizona with his wife, Diana, and three children, ages 7, 9 and 11. He married Diana in Rome in 2003, with a handful of brothers in attendance. Manuel currently serves as a principal in Vanguard’s Retail Investor Group, overseeing a group of investment professionals. When not at work, Manuel is attending piano recitals, coaching Little League baseball, or teaching Sunday school.

As for his time at Penn, Manuel learned many life lessons and developed friendships he has happily sustained over the years. Choosing Penn for its reputation of academic excellence and commitment to diversity, Manuel feels lucky to have found a place within the school where he belonged.

“Phi Phi was a microcosm of the Penn culture, helping me to learn how to seek out those different than me,” he says. “Being at Penn was the first time many of us were truly on our own, taking care of a house and each other. We certainly did our share of foolish things, but we were always careful enough to look out for each other and learn from our mistakes. Phi Phi is a great brotherhood, helping young men continue their journey into becoming great people and strong leaders.”