Educator Chris Gomez became one of UT Arlingtonís
first Hispanic graduates when he earned a bachelorís degree in Spanish in 1964.
He later received a masterís degree and became one of the first Hispanic
administrators at a local school district. Last fall he and Leonardo
Strittmatter received the Inicia el Trayecto (Trailblazer Award) during the
Universityís observance of Hispanic Heritage Month. Now retired, Gomez works
part time at Tarrant County College Northwest Campus.
Give us a brief update on your career.
in 1964, I continued working for Buddies Super Markets. Shortly thereafter, I
became a manager for Sundown Markets in Dallas. A year later I began working at
Safeway Stores while getting my teacher certification at Texas Wesleyan
University. In 1967 I began my teaching career at Burleson High. In 1974 I moved
to the Birdville district where I taught for 12 years and was then an
administrator for 15 years. I retired in 2001.
Why did you
choose UT Arlington?
I received a music scholarship, and it was
close enough to commute. My degree shows that I graduated from Arlington State
College, in 1964. In 1970 I started working on my masterís. By then the school
had become The University of Texas at Arlington.
Did your parents stress education?
My father really did
not think I needed to go to school, but he did teach me to finish what I
started. He had a very good work ethic. My mother, on the other hand, saw the
value in education. Although she only had a sixth-grade education, she was an
encouraging force throughout my years. She was very proud of her sons in that we
all received an education and had never seen the inside of a jail. We grew up in
a rough neighborhood.
You had a front-row seat to the
civil rights movement. What was it like on campus then?
I was very
sympathetic with the movement because of the prejudice against us ďChicanos,Ē as
we were called then. Now we are Hispanics. There has been a great step in the
right direction, but I will always be proud of my
What advice do you have for Hispanic
I would tell them that education is a must in order to be
more successful. We are a fast-growing population, and we need Hispanic leaders.
Do not give up. It took me eight years to graduate the first time, and five more
to complete my masterís. My brother took 10 years and was successful financially
because he finished his degree.
What was your reaction upon hearing that you would be recognized
during Hispanic Heritage Month?
I was surprised! I didnít realize
that I was one of the first Hispanics to graduate. It was a very humbling
How do you see UT Arlington
I was amazed to find out that it had grown so much. It is a
great university and presents an opportunity for all students. It is an honor to
have attended this great school.
— Michael Vega