UTA Magazine
Alumnus Chris Gomez

Photo of Chris Gomez with students 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.
After graduating 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 heritage.
What advice do you have for Hispanic students?
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 experience.
How do you see UT Arlington today?
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

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