After obtaining his Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from the University of New Mexico in 1955, Sanchez entered the U.S. Marine Corps. After that he attended the University of Michigan, where he earned his Master of Science degree in 1960 and his Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1964.
Sanchez served in U.S. Marine Corps for 3 years from 1956.
During his graduate school years, he worked as a research assistant in the Radar Laboratory of the university’s Institute of Science and Technology, where he investigated signal processing and battlefield simulations for U.S. Army applications. In 1963 he accepted an instructor’s position at the University of Chicago; he remained there until 1965 when he became a visiting professor for a year at Manchester University in Manchester, England. In 1966 he returned to the United States, becoming an assistant professor at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Four years later he took another year as visiting assistant professor, this time at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and then returned to UCLA as associate professor. After spending a school year during 1973 and 1974 as visiting associate professor at the University of Wisconsin’s Mathematics Research Center, Sanchez became a full professor at UCLA in 1976. Just a year later he returned to his alma mater, accepting a professorship at the University of New Mexico. He remained there until 1986, serving as chair of the department of mathematics and statistics from 1983 to 1986. He took time during 1982 to teach at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth.
During this period, Sanchez developed an interest in biomathematics—math that can be applied to the study of biology. He began using mathematical models to study population growth and competing populations. In his study on an ordinary game bird, the sand hill crane, for instance, Sanchez used a mathematical model to predict the effect of an external force that reduces a population, in this case by hunting. He wanted to formulate a simple mathematical equation that could predict the point at which the crane population would face extinction because it was being hunted at a rate faster than it could reproduce and grow. In this and other research studies, Sanchez constructed mathematical models that have implications for the study of human populations.
In 1986, Sanchez made a career switch and accepted a position as vice president and provost at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. After four years of administrative experience there, he became the assistant director for mathematical and physical sciences for the National Science Foundation in Washington. In 1992 he changed from administering science funds to helping to run a federal laboratory, joining the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico as deputy associate director for research and education. On November 1, 1993, he became vice chancellor for academic affairs for the Texas A & M University System. This large state system, which is composed of seven universities and eight agencies, has an enrollment of over 75,000 students, employs more than 19,000 people, and has operations in each of the 254 counties in Texas. In a Texas A & M Fortnightly article, university chancellor William Mobley said that Sanchez’s extensive experience with academic and research program development both at the university and at the federal level made him capable of providing the long-range academic planning and linkages needed by its vast university system.
He is the author of three books on mathematics.
Sanchez is a member of the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics, the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science.
He has served on several boards of governors, directors, advisory boards, and policy committees. Always interested in minority participation in academics, he served on the American Mathematical Society’s Committee on Opportunities in Mathematics for Disadvantaged Groups, and the Committee on Minority Participation in Mathematics for the Mathematics Association of America.
Besides mathematics and administration, Sanchez enjoys fishing, bridge, and fiction writing and has published articles in Flyfishing News and The Steamboat Whistle.
Sanchez married Joan Patricia Thomas in 1957, and they have two children - Bruce and Christina.