Union Taught Him to Ask Hard Questions

Union Taught Him to Ask Hard Questions

Categories: 1836 Legacy Circle, Alums in the World

We regret to inform the Union community that Dr. David A. Sánchez ’06 died unexpectedly of heart complications while hiking in Eaton Canyon, Los Angeles, California, on Saturday, April 6, 2019. We are devastated. Dr. Sánchez’s obituary and a moving memorial written by a student at the university where he taught may be found far below.
Rest in power, Dr. Sánchez.

A Conversation with Dr. David A. Sánchez ’06 

Having an impact on the next generations of theological thinkers—thereby having an impact on the future of society—is what David Sánchez values most about his current position.

David, who serves as assistant professor of Early Christianity and Christian Origins at Loyola Marymount University, Pasadena, California, is also the past president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States and the past book review editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion.

“It’s a privilege to be training the religious and theological thinkers who will soon be offering the world and church their leadership,” he said.

About his own education, David said, “Union taught me to ask hard questions. The faculty there guided me to transgress the non-porous walls of the academy and see scripture not as an authoritative, ancient artifact but as a contemporary template that informs how we authoritatively engage—or not engage—the world in which we live. “

David stays connected to Union in several ways. He is part of Union’s Western United States Alumni/ae group that meets semi-annually in California, and he has also served on the UTS Alumni/ae Council for the last three years. He currently co-chairs the Council with his colleague, Rev. Kym Lucas ’95.

He also believes in giving back.

“I believe in the mission of Union Theological Seminary,” Sánchez said. “I believe in the training of pastors, administrators, and educators who embody a prophetic spirit of speaking truth to power. I can think of no other institution of higher learning so committed to this project. I give to Union Theological Seminary because I have witnessed firsthand how our graduates make a difference in the world.”


Dr. David A. Sánchez
January 26, 1960 – April 6, 2019

David Arthur Sánchez was born on January 26, 1960, to Julia and Arthur Sánchez in Los Angeles, California. He was raised in Lincoln Heights and lived in a small home with his two older sisters, Arleen and Sylvia. He spoke fondly of living just a stone’s throw away from Dodger Stadium. His favorite boyhood pastime was playing baseball with his friends in the empty lot nearby. He attended Our Lady Help of Christians School. He attended Cantwell High School, where he met his two very best friends, Joe and Gary. When he graduated in 1977, David had many dreams—but it took him awhile to find his true passion. In 1988 he received a bachelor of science in chemistry from CSULA. He was accepted to pharmacy school at USC, but pharmacy wasn’t his true calling. He worked at Airborne Express for many years. In 1991, while studying psychology at CSULA, he met Denna and they married in 1993. While living in Ontario, he took a bike ride and happened upon the School of Theology at Claremont where he enrolled in New Testament Studies and received his MA. David and Denna then moved to NYC to work on his PhD at Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University, where he received both his MA and doctorate.

In 2001 Isabella Loren was born on Father’s Day. His favorite memory of their early days together was taking her to mass every day at the church across the street from their apartment. As she got older, he loved coaching her volleyball and soccer teams and taking her golfing. They also enjoyed going out to dinners at their favorite restaurants, Houston’s and Terroni. Denna and David moved back to California and in 2005 welcomed Mayali Belen into the family. In addition to coaching her teams as well, he loved to engage her in deep conversations about world religions and spirituality. They shared a love for music and sushi especially at Sugarfish, a common afterschool snack. They ate there so often that the server knew them by name.

David was an associate professor in early Christianity and Christian origins at Loyola Marymount University. His research interests included Irish studies, Guadalupe, murals, and understanding the Bible and its relation to history. David was an avid golfer and loved watching and playing sports.

David was a big fan of the Dodgers, Yankees, Bengals, Rams, the Flyers, and the Clippers. His favorite college football team was USC and anyone playing against UCLA. Fight on! David loved travel, but his favorite places in the world were New York City and Scotland. He also loved music and he had an extensive music library that included his favorites such as Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Santana, Los Lobos, and Black Sabbath. He loved singing his Irish favorite, “Come Out Ye Black and Tans.” David was a scholar, a great friend, and a passionate sports fan but the thing he valued most was being a father. He adored his daughters, and to know him was to know how close he held them to his heart. The last song on his phone was “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John, a song that reminded him of his beloved baby girls, Bella and Maya.

The Sánchez family would like to express our deepest appreciation for the outpouring of love and sympathy during this difficult time. The support we have received from our friends, extended family, Holy Family Church, Holy Family School, Mayfield Senior School, and Loyola Marymount University has given us strength and courage in our great sorrow. David will be greatly missed, but the beautiful memories we have of him will keep him close to our hearts.

Many have asked us how they can help. Because David’s passing was so unexpected and he was dedicated to loving his family, we want to make sure that his young daughters won’t have to worry about the education he wanted most for them. As such, memorial contributions can be made to the Bella & Maya Scholarship at https://www.gofundme.com/f/bellamaya-sanchez-scholarship-fund.

Loyola Marymount University – Los Angeles Obituary

David A. Sánchez was associate professor of Early Christianity in the department of Theological Studies at LMU while also serving as affiliate faculty in Irish Studies and the School of Education. Some of professor Sánchez’s many accomplishments include his time leading and offering his vision for Latinx Theology as the president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States (ACHTUS). A generous colleague, he was also book review editor for The Journal of Hispanic/Latino Theology and for the Journal of the American Academy of Religion. According to ACHTUS “His award-winning first book, From Patmos to the Barrio: Subverting Imperial Myths, modeled a Chicano approach to biblical scholarship. He traced the subversion of Roman imperial myths in Revelation onto their subversive adaptation in colonial Mexico and the first written narratives about the Virgin of Guadalupe and then through to the Chicano movement and murals of Guadalupe in East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights.” His most recent work was on the complex function of murals for communities living through major conflicts by looking at two primary sites, Los Angeles, California, and Northern Ireland.

As a student David Sánchez was a member of the Hispanic Theological Initiative’s Dissertation group of young scholars. And later as a professor he was HTI’s Book Prize winner and also a mentor. At LMU Dr. Sánchez taught and mentored countless groups of undergraduate students, who saw in him a role model and advocate, and graduate students who were invariably challenged and encouraged by his invitation to profound intellectual engagement.

He is survived by two young daughters and mourned by hundreds of people across several continents who were touched by his gracious kindness, his insightful and honest writings, and, most of all, his friendship.

Que Descanse en Paz

The Los Angeles Loyolan – The Student Newspaper of Loyola Marymount University
In Memoriam – Dr. David A. Sanchez

Dr. David A. Sánchez, an associate professor of Early Christianity and Christian Origins at LMU, died of an apparent heart attack while hiking in Eaton Canyon on April 6.

“David was a valued colleague but also a dear friend. One of the warmest human beings I have ever known. Smart and perceptive. A fine scholar, a teacher deeply dedicated to his students, and a beautiful person,” said Dr. Douglas Christie, chair of the department of theological studies.

Dr. Daniel Smith-Christopher, a professor of theological studies, said, “David will be remembered as a creative mind, a kind spirit, and a wonderful colleague. He will be deeply missed by his colleagues at LMU.”

Sánchez began working as a professor in the theological studies department in August 2005.

“He was an amazing person who always saw the good in people and situations,” said Sam Wanket, a junior marketing major. “He was always a bright and smiling person, even for our early morning classes.”

“Theology and the study of theology, for David, [was] all about learning to see the world more clearly and deeply and learning to think critically about the ethical questions at the heart of faith,” said Christie. “He wanted to understand what the murals said about politics, culture, religion, and the possibilities for peace. And he invited his students into this work too.”

In addition to being a professor, Sánchez was a renowned scholar. He held a doctorate in philosophy from Union Theological Seminary and was the Book Review Editor of The Journal of the American Academy of Religion. He was also the president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States (ACHTUS).

Ramon Luzarraga, division chair of undergraduate studies and assistant professor of theology at Benedictine University Mesa, met Sánchez through ACHTUS. “He was a good man who was strong and highly principled and had a capacity to truly dialogue and empathize with persons from different backgrounds and with different views,” Luzarraga said on Facebook.

Sánchez wrote in abundance about Catholicism. From his award-winning book From Patmos to the Barrio: Subverting Imperial Myths to his articles as a Huffington Post contributor, Sánchez proved that he had a strong, unique, and extensive understanding of the Bible and its relation to history.

“David was recently exploring Irish Studies in addition to his New Testament work,” said Smith-Christopher. “We will sadly not fully benefit now from the intellectual journey he was making.”

“I was lucky enough to experience Ireland with him for our spring break … he honestly made my experience with the amount of passion he had,” said Wanket.

He was also an avid sports fan. “He would engage anyone and everyone about his passion for sports. It was always immensely enjoyable to do so,” said Christie.

This love of sports showed itself during LMU’s Casa de la Mateada program in Córdoba, Argentina. Christie said that Sánchez, who attended the program, joined a game of soccer with local children.

He “participated with all the fierce competitiveness for which he is known—but which he usually saves for the golf course,” said Christie. “That was David: full of life and joy, quick with a smile and a quip, always ready to take up a challenge.”