Tomás Rivera (1935-1984)

Tomas Rivera

Tomas Rivera, author, poet, teacher, and lifelong learner, was born in Texas to farm laborers who were Mexican immigrants. Neither of his parents had a formal education.

He attended Southwest Texas State University, where he received B.S. and M.Ed. degrees in English and administration, and the University of Oklahoma, where he earned his M.A. in Spanish literature and a Ph.D. in romance language and literature. Rivera also studied Spanish culture and civilization at the University of Texas, Austin and studied in Guadalajara, Mexico.

After completing his Ph.D., he taught at Sam Houston State University and served on the planning team that built the University of Texas, San Antonio, where he also served a chair of the Romance Language Department, Associate Dean, and Vice President.

In 1978 he became the Chief Executive Officer at the University of Texas, EI Paso, and in 1979 he became Chancellor of the University of California, Riverside.

Rivera was an active author, poet, and artist, and loved to read. He began writing creatively at 11 or 12 years of age. He wrote about Chicano topics, themes, and feelings. He began documenting the struggles of migrant workers. He did not write about politics and did not view his work as political. He published several poems, short prose pieces, and essays on literature and higher education.

He served on many boards, including the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the American Association for Higher Education, and the American Council on Education. In addition, Rivera was active in a great number of charitable organizations and was the recipient of numerous honors, awards, and recognitions. He was one of the founders and presidents of the National Council of Chicanos in Higher Education and served on commissions on higher education under Presidents Carter and Reagan.