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Tomás Rivera grew up the son of migrant workers in Texas. When he was 11, he was involved in a car accident, and it was during this time he was inspired to write his first story, called “The Accident.”

After this, he aspired to become a writer. His grandfather was the main support and would bring him writing tools. He saw firsthand the difficulties Latinos and Latinas faced when they would try to move beyond their environment, to better their lives. He knew having a higher education was the key to improving his life. He earned a BA degree in English and an M. Ed. In Education Administration from Southwest Texas State University (now known as Texas State University). In addition, he earned his Masters of Arts degree in Spanish Literature and a Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literature from the University of Oklahoma.

While working to earn his degrees, he taught high school Spanish and English. Dr. Rivera taught at a few different institutions, beginning with Sam Houston University where he taught as an associate professor until 1971. He then became a professor teaching Spanish at the University of Texas at San Antonio. In 1973 he was appointed associate dean, then in 1975 became a vice-president. He was appointed executive vice president of the University of Texas as El Paso in 1978. From there he worked as a corporate officer Times Mirror Company, before accepting the position of chancellor at the University of California, Riverside in 1979. The Mexican-American to hold the position in the UC system. He remained chancellor until his death in 1984 at age 48.

Dr. Rivera contributed greatly to the literary world with his poems, writings, and short stories. He is best known for his book, …Y no se lo tragó la tierra ( …and the Earth Did Not Devour Him). Dr. Rivera strongly believed that education was the key to a better future for many Hispanic children, and recognized they are the resource for tomorrow.