This is Tommy Casarez.
He is a fifth-generation Mexican American and a first-generation Christian, who was born and raised in Dallas, Texas, where he attended Sunset High School under the housing of a single mother.
His father also named Tommy Casarez, was present for the first three or four years since his son Tommy was born, and unfortunately would move on to start another family, leaving his mother home to raise five children on her own in government-subsidized housing, also commonly referred to as projects today, in an inner-city neighborhood called Oak Cliff.
We find Tommy sitting in his office on the second floor of Heath which overlooks the music, theatre, and natural science buildings. He was sitting stylishly with a light gray fedora felt dress hat and a Maya blue oxford shirt. He gazes out the window recalling his time in Oak Cliff, " It's a pretty rough neighborhood. Before I found my faith, I used to go out and make sure I was home before 12:30 (AM) because I wanted to miss the gun shootings," he continues saying, "I never knew you could get evicted from government housing until my family and I got kicked out three times."
Tommy's biological Dad did not attend college and was a cotton picker in the heat of the Texas sun but would later volunteer for the Army during the Vietnam war. At the end of his career, he would receive a purple heart for his sacrifice and service then later close his time in the military as a Drill Sergeant. While, his Mom, Carmen, provided for her family by working as an assembly factory manager.
Growing up, Tommy was surrounded by a full house with four other siblings. Him being the second youngest of five children, having a younger sister, Melissa or, "Missy" as they refer her to, one older sister, Marina and two older brothers, Michael, and his eldest, Albert. In high school, Tommy was active playing football and soccer. He was an outside linebacker, or "strongside" in football and played as a forward in soccer. When Tommy was 16, his family was unreligious, until his Mom eventually came to love the Lord, by getting invited to church by her El Salvadorian friend, Blanca.
Tommy would eventually come to his faith by hearing Bible verses and stories while his mom invited him to the kitchen to help make homemade tortillas. They would eat tortillas con mantequilla which translates to tortillas with butter. After hearing about the Bible, Tommy would eventually go to his Mom's church. One day, while hearing the message, God spoke into Tommy's heart, and radically changed his life at an altar call, " It was the most the surreal experience I have ever had and I think I cried enough tears to cover the water usage for the church." He jokes and continues, " But ever since then, I gave my life to the Lord and never looked back."
After graduating high school, Tommy attended the University of North Texas for a year studying History and Political Science but later would delay his undergraduate education and go to a bible university called, Christ for the Nations, for a year. After, he would serve as a Youth Pastor at Kings Cathedral Church in Kahalui, Maui where he would help oversee a hundred or so young adults in their walk with the Lord. At the end of that year, Tommy would hear about Vanguard University from his fellow peers on the island and commit to finishing his undergraduate in History. In 1994, Tommy graduated with his undergraduate after spending two and a half years as a transfer student.
Despite the high cost of education, Tommy would stay local and get a Master's of divinity at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, Los Angeles, then received a Master's of Sacred Theology at Yale University Divinity School and finally would finish with his, Ph.D. in Theological Ethics in Princeton Theological Seminary. Tommy mentions some advice from a former mentor named, Chris Davis, who was a church planter that encouraged him in his education along the way, " If this is God's calling in your life then don't let finances get in the way." Davis advised, " There is an element of taking that leap of faith and trusting in the Lord," which Tommy ultimately found was the right direction for his life
Today, he works on campus as an Assistant Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology and happily married to Asenath Casarez, who was recently hired at VU in August as a Worship Pastor and have been married for 19 years. They met a Templo Calvario Church in Santa Ana and currently have three children; Josiah, Isabella, and Tabetha.
When Tommy has a little bit of downtime, he enjoys spending time with his family, they like biking around the local pier with their tandem bike and beach cruisers in Huntington Beach with their dog, who is a 25-pound two-year-old labradoodle, his name is Bandit. They call him Bandit because he has a small black furry spot over his eye. Tommy also enjoys hearing stories whether that is in a movie format, talking to his life group from Church or hearing God's word. He explains, "Stories shape our character, like narrative theology, it informs our faith and provides a background and horizon to our existence in directing our lives," he continues, "There is a push and pull effect that inspires and compels us to do something. It's (stories) pretty powerful." Tommy's favorite movie is Marvel's Avengers Endgame and enjoys eating all things carne asada (grilled sliced beef).
Vanguard University is thankful for Tommy's journey and his timeless faith in the Lord.
- university news