Posted January 25, 2017

Hoops Hall of Famer gives back to Temple

Juan “Pepe” Sanchez, who came to Temple from Argentina in the late ’90s to play basketball, said his own experience inspired him to make a gift to support international students.

Pepe Sanchez waving as he walks across a gym.
Photography By: 
Joseph V. Labolito
After graduating from Temple in 2000, Juan “Pepe” Sanchez went on to play on Argentina’s Olympic gold medal team in 2004 and in the NBA.

For all his prowess on the court, Temple basketball legend Juan “Pepe” Sanchez struggled in his first months at the university, at times even considering giving up his dream of playing college ball and heading back home to Argentina.

“It was really, really hard,” Sanchez, CLA ’00, said recently. “It was one of the most challenging things I’ve experienced.”

That struggle is exactly what drove Sanchez, along with his friend, Drew Golin, STH ’00, an American classmate who befriended him, to make a gift to support international students at Temple. Sanchez said he was inspired to make the donation—which Golin matched—to Temple when he visited campus in November to be inducted into the Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor.

“Coming back to Temple, the first thing I thought about was international students,” said Sanchez, who went on to play in the NBA, in the Euroleague and on Argentina’s 2004 Olympic gold medal team. “I wanted to help the student who was me 20 years ago.”

Brooke Walker, vice dean of International Students, said Sanchez and Golin’s gifts will support its new Peer2Peer program that pairs groups of international students with American student leaders early in their college careers.

Coming back to Temple, the first thing I thought about was international students. I wanted to help the student who was me 20 years ago.
-- Juan “Pepe” Sanchez

Walker said all of the students who started as a cohort in fall 2016 have been retained. The program incorporates both academic and social components.

“The very beginning, it’s really tough, in my experience,” Sanchez said. “That’s where students need the most support.”

Since Sanchez’s time at Temple in the late ’90s, the population of international students has more than doubled, from about 1,500 then to roughly 4,000 now, Walker said.

Sanchez recalled how much Golin’s help with simple things, like finding his classes, made a huge difference to him. The pair remained friends over the years, and Sanchez said he hopes their dovetailing gifts to Temple will help make the same experience he had thanks to Golin possible for current students.

“He stood by me the whole time,” Sanchez said. “The most important thing is he was just with me. I had someone who cared about me, and that made a difference.”

Learn how you can make a difference in Temple students’ lives.