September 8, 2009

The caller identified himself as a representative from the White House. “Would you be interested in serving on Obama’s Council for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships?,” he asked. Arturo Chavez (PhD ’06) thought, “Is this call a hoax?”

Chavez later learned that the new council will work on behalf of Americans committed to improving their communities, no matter their religious or political beliefs, and will be a resource for nonprofits and community organizations – both secular and faith based – looking for ways to make a bigger impact in their communities through innovative partnerships that effectively meet the needs of the most vulnerable.

Within a week of the first White House phone call, Chavez asked and received the unanimous support of his board and family to participate in the new council, and after a complete background check, he was on a plane to Washington, DC to meet with President Obama and other council members.

Arturo Chavez meets Barack Obama.

“President Obama met with us after the prayer breakfast in February. He is very sincere, personable and clearly committed to community,” Chavez said. “I was both curious and flattered that my work and experience would have drawn the interest of the President of the United States,” Chavez said. “I came to understand that my current work at Mexican American Catholic College (MACC), my involvement with the Latino community, and the church and community work before and after Iliff, all came into play.”

Chavez is the president and CEO of MACC in San Antonio, Texas and has more than twenty years in a variety of ministries including teacher, youth minister, chaplain to incarcerated youth, community after-care programs, community organizer, activist, author, and national speaker.

“MACC was the first center for Hispanic Ministry after Vatican II that incorporated the gospel, and celebrated the culture of the people. The new model for the church encourages pastoral centers, theological and cultural studies, and a commitment to social justice.” See more at

“I have to credit my wife for bringing me to Iliff,” commented Chavez. “We were both looking for educational opportunities when my wife was offered a fellowship to study social work at the University of Denver (DU). She decided not to pursue doctoral studies, but while she was looking into DU, I was visiting Iliff. The Joint PhD in religion and social change fit exactly what I was seeking. Iliff’s offering of the Mary Louise Iliff Scholarship to me was the impetus that sealed the deal. My family and I moved to Denver and spent 2 ½ wonderful years living on campus in a supportive community – a big change for us, since my wife had never lived outside of San Antonio.” Arturo Chavez completed his PHD in religion and social change from the joint program in 2006 and was awarded “Iliff Alum of the Year” in 2007.

“I am grateful to the Iliff faculty and community, and also the Benedictine Resource Center where I worked before coming to Iliff, for helping me during this turning point in my life,” Chavez added. “It was just what I needed to bring the passion and skills together to do my life work.”

“I am teaching at MACC where we are addressing the need for Latino’s access to higher education. Those seeking degrees often experience the language block. MACC is moving to change that. We will offer fully biliterate bachelor degree programs soon.”

“For those seeking graduate degrees, I will continue to refer them to Iliff,” Chavez said.

Arturo Chavez at the White House

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