This is a story from the March 2014 edition of The Lake Front. Throwback Thursday will be regular series on The Lake Front’s website in which featured stories from old issues will be re-posted.
By Angelica Casas
SAN ANTONIO—Over 40 years ago, Richard Sanchez cut the shrubs that encircle St. Martin’s Hall because he was tired of trimming them every week. He twisted and tied together the three small branches that remained of each shrub.
Today, those shrubs have grown over 6-feet high, their branches still intertwined with one another. This is one way in which Sanchez has contributed to our Lady of the Lake University’s appearance.
Sanchez, 65, is the housekeeping supervisor’s assistant. Most of his life has been spent at the university.
“My fingerprints are all over campus,” Sanchez said.” On walls, on lights, on furniture. If you could see the footsteps around St. Martin’s Hall, the field would be covered with my footsteps.”
Sanchez’s relationship with the university began when he was a teenager and volunteered at St. Martin Hall Elementary School through a program for high school dropouts. He was officially hired as a maintenance man for the elementary school on Sep. 7, 1967, at the age of 18.
Sanchez had dropped out of high school because he was sick with asthma. “I got better and thank God I was able to continue my job over here,” Sanchez said.
When he went to the payroll office to sign his W-2 form, Sanchez said one of the sisters joked about his size and told him “we don’t have jobs here for little boys.”
“Some things you don’t forget,” Sanchez said, laughing.
At St. Martins Hall, Sanchez would clean the classrooms in the morning for students to arrive at 8 AM. From about 8 to 10:30 AM, Sanchez would work on the yard. At 11 AM, he would set up the tables and chairs in the cafeteria for lunch at noon. After lunch, he would have to clear the cafeteria so that the area could be used as a gym for physical education class. At 3 o’clock, when all the students left, he would get a head start cleaning some of the classes for the next day.
He did this every day on his own for 10 years until he moved to the west side of campus and became the housekeeping supervisor’s assistant, a position he still holds.
“I like responsibility but I don’t like full responsibility,” Sanchez said. “I never know what I’m going to do tomorrow; it’s always a little bit different. I like that.”
Sanchez said many changes have taken place since he started working at the university. He has constantly moved room furniture and offices across campus, even from the University Wellness and Activity Center on the far west side of campus to the Worden building on the far east side.
Even the student demographic has changed: when he first began, Our Lady of the Lake was an all-female college.
“I felt embarrassed to walk down the hallway,” Sanchez said with a chuckle. “I felt like all the girls were laughing at me.”
Sanchez said he remembers when the college started admitting males. They used to live in a building where Conn’s is now located on Commerce Street. When Pacelli Hall was built, the women moved there and the men began to live in Ayres Hall.
“Things kept changing,” Sanchez said, adding that he used to feel like he was working at a holy place because the sisters would be everywhere. In 2008 when the fire in the Main Building happened, Sanchez was not in town and said he felt horrible because he could do nothing about it. Before the spire was placed back over Main, Sanchez asked to touch it so that his fingerprints could also be on one of the highest places on campus.
Sanchez, now married with two sons, was never enrolled at the university but did attend workshops offered through Weekend College on how to run an office. He learned how to properly answer the phone and make conversations shorter.
Sanchez said when he was 10 or 11 years old he would visit Elmendorf Lake on the city bus with his mother. He would see people around and ask himself what kind of people worked at the university.
“’I wonder what kind of work there is to be done there,’ I would ask not knowing that I would one day be [here] for a long time,” Sanchez said.
This September will mark Sanchez’s 47th anniversary working for the university. He plans to retire in two or three years.
“I feel pleased that I’m doing not just a job something for the university and the students,” Sanchez said. “Everything is a pleasure.”