First-generation Huskie gives donation to NIU

By Zak Quiggle

Manny Sanchez is a proud man.

He is proud of his family, proud of himself and proud of his alma mater.

“I never have and never will forget where I came from,” he said of the bond he feels with NIU. “I appreciate the valuable role NIU has played in my life.”

Sanchez and his wife, Pat, recently donated $100,000 toward the construction of the Barsema Alumni and Visitor’s Center.

“It was really serendipitous,” he said. “I was waiting for the right time to show my love affair with NIU. Whether you need information on dormitories, tuition, or classes, [the Center] will be a great asset in terms of understanding your options at NIU.”

Manny, who grew up on Chicago’s west side, is an NIU alumnus and the first from his family to pursue a college education.

He earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania and went on to found Sanchez & Daniels, the second-largest minority-owned law firm in the country. The Sanchez family lives in Lisle.

Manny still devotes much of his time to his alma mater. He was appointed in 1996 as one of the founding members of the NIU Board of Trustees. He was then named chair in 2001, earning him the distinction of being the first Latino in Illinois and second in the nation to run a public university board.

He also has taken a leadership role in helping to increase college enrollment among minority students.

“I suppose the best way to explain my bond to NIU is that if I wasn’t given the opportunity for a higher education that they gave me, I wouldn’t be where I am now,” Manny said.

Pat Sanchez, also a first-generation college student, has made her own name in the corporate world. After spending a decade at Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc., she was named vice president of external affairs for the Chicago office of Commonwealth Edison. This made her Commonwealth Edison’s first Latina V.P.

Later, she started her own strategic communications business called Pulido Sanchez Communications, LLC.

“We both recognize the importance of the NIU relationship with its alumni, and we realize that alumni also have a responsibility to help cultivate future generations of college students,” Pat said. “Manny has so much passion and love around his alma mater. How could I not support him in this?”

Manny isn’t the only NIU alum in his family. This past spring, he had the honor of awarding his daughter, Annette Valente, her second master’s degree, in educational administration. Annette’s husband, Tony Valente, is also an NIU alum.

“The alumni are very important to the university, as well as the university’s importance to us,” Manny said. “The alumni can be a great source of support, both financially and by providing a fresh line of students. The alumni’s children and grandchildren can follow in their footsteps. My wish is that young people, particularly minorities, will have the same opportunity now that I had thirty-five years ago.”

Ground broke for the Center last fall. It will be a two-and-a-half story building and is scheduled to be completed for the Homecoming festivities on Oct. 15.

The donation earns the couple special recognition in the Circle of the Seal. The university seal will be engraved into the floor of the Center, with the names of alumni and friends who helped make it possible.

“The center will be a place … where we can reflect upon our own NIU experiences and memories,” Manny said. “It’s going to be a great draw and rallying point for the university.”