Professor Sánchez was born in San Antonio, Texas on September 24, 1922. Growing up as the only child of immigrant parents, he was driven by two equally influential forces – his parents’ belief in the power of education and his pride in his Mexican roots. The combined effect of these two guiding principles propelled him through a life filled with academic distinction and joy in the many forms of the Spanish language literary tradition.
He graduated from Corpus Christi High School in 1940. He then attended Corpus Christi Junior College before transferring to the University of Texas where he received his Bachelor of Arts in 1943 and Master’s degree in 1944. He received his Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1949 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He joined the UW faculty ranks in 1950, was tenured in 1955, and was promoted to Full Professor in 1963.
As he retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1984, Professor Sánchez found a way to channel the dynamic values that had motivated him into tangible opportunities for upcoming generations of bilingual youth by creating a pathway for striving first-generation students like himself through endowed scholarship programs at the high school, community college, and university level.
By the time he passed away in August 2016 at the age of 93, Professor Sánchez had known the deep satisfaction of having seen his vision of a local pathway to higher education become reality. To date, over 90 aspiring students have received financial support through Sánchez Scholar programs at the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), Madison College, and UW-Madison. A growing list of their graduations, degrees, and academic accomplishments attests to the investment he made to honor his parents and his heritage, and this legacy will continue to benefit Scholars and their families in perpetuity.
Since 2000, over seventy MMSD students have participated in the high school program, a collaboration with the Madison Community Foundation that enjoys a 100% graduation rate. Currently, there are 15 Sánchez Scholars attending Madison high schools.
In 2008, Professor Sánchez initiated a scholarship through the Madison College (MATC) Foundation that supports students pursuing liberal arts transfer or associate degree programs there. Over thirty students have received funding in the past thirteen years. In the fall of 2011, the University of Wisconsin-Madison launched its Sánchez Scholars program with the selection of its first two Scholars. Over twelve Scholars, including six MMSD graduates, have participated to date.