Date: October 14, 2011
Esperanza Muñiz, assistant dean of women at Lamson Hall, passed away Friday, Oct. 14, 2011. Born Sept. 1, 1970, in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, Esperanza was the daughter of Jose Manuel Alvarez and Lidia Mercedes Duran. She was the fourth of five siblings, two sisters and three brothers: Rhadames, Dilia, Ignacio, Esperanza, and Jose Manuel.
Esperanza attended Hunter College in New York where she majored in Black and Puerto Rican Studies and graduated in 1979 with a double major in Spanish Literature. In 2007 she graduated from Andrews University with a Master of Divinity.
Esperanza’s passion was always for young people. As a child, Esperanza would often gather her cousins and baby brother and pretend she was their teacher. Often she would have 12 or more participants in her class. She led Pathfinders, taught youth Sabbath School, worked as a bilingual education teacher in the public schools of New York City and spent two years working as an elementary school teacher at Bronx-Manhattan Seventh-day Adventist School in New York City. Always looking for another way to minister, Esperanza felt God was calling her to do more. While preparing a youth Sabbath school program, she was encouraged to attend a ministerial training seminar led by José Cortez. At the seminar, a call went out for young people to do the work of preparing the next generation. Esperanza asked God to show her what His will was. After talking to Pastor Cortez, Esperanza decided to attend the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.
While a student at the Seminary, Esperanza worked as a student dean at Lamson Hall. After graduation from the Seminary, she returned to teach at the Bronx-Manhattan Seventh-day Adventist School. Lydia Morales, a parent of a Bronx-Manhattan student, remembers, “She was my son’s teacher. We shared so many things that year: the happiness of her nuptials, the sadness of a student’s death, the triumph of more than one student, too many things to list…she was an excellent teacher. Never a harsh word was heard from her lips. She imparted not only her knowledge but her kind and Christ-like manner to her students and to those she came in contact with.”
In May 2008, Esperanza married Paul Muñiz, whom she met while she was fulfilling her NADEI requirements (North American Division Evangelism Institute). Esperanza had asked God to send her a sign when the time was right for her to marry: her future husband would read her Joshua 1:9. Paul and Esperanza began to grow their friendship, and one day, God led Paul to read Joshua 1:9. Esperanza said the Lord had confirmed that they were to be husband and wife.
That same year, Esperanza received an invitation to return to Lamson Hall as assistant dean of women. Two months after her marriage, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. But her indomitable spirit and love for the women in the dorm wouldn’t allow her to quit work while she underwent treatment. Two years later, after two surgeries and nine sessions of chemotherapy, she was declared cancer-free.
Esperanza means “hope” in Spanish, and Dean Muniz truly was hope, inspiration and joy to all those who knew her. Within moments of hearing of her death, hundreds of messages and condolences were posted online and on Facebook. Students, alumni, faculty and friends across the country remembered her life of faith, her dedication to her students and her love for others. A message online from Nancy Rodriguez, a friend and former student, recalls, “Esperanza was not ashamed to speak about her love for God. She was always willing to serve and praise His name for everything! …She was the purest and sweetest person I have ever known. I feel blessed and privileged to have had Esperanza as my spiritual mentor and my friend.”
Current students recalled her impact on their lives as well. An anonymous message recalled the care for her students that Muñiz showed daily: “She was someone who you could tell loved God very much, and loved taking care of His girls here in Lamson. Just last evening she was walking around 3rd floor writing messages on dry-erase boards hanging on some of the doors. I remember thinking she must care for us. I'm very sorry for the loss of such a beautiful example of God's love, and I pray for comfort and healing for her family.”
Later that weekend, three message boards were placed around campus so students and faculty could write prayers and messages of remembrance. The deans of Lamson Hall plan to dedicate the recently completed prayer room to her memory. Memorial services were held on Saturday, Oct. 22, at Pioneer Memorial Church in Berrien Springs, Mich. and in New York City on Tuesday, Oct. 25.
She is survived by her husband, Paul, her sister Dilia Alvarez; her brothers Rhadames Duran, Ignacio Alvarez and Jose Manuel Alvarez; her mother, Lidia Mercedes Duran; seven nieces, five nephews, one grandniece, and Chico the dog.
When her brother Ignacio became a Christian, Esperanza made a pact with him to meet at 3 p.m. at the Tree of Life in heaven. Not only will she meet her brother, but the hundreds whose lives she touched wait to greet her again.
Esperanza Alvarez-Muñiz, 1970-2011