Dr. Tomás Rivera is one of Texas State University’s most distinguished alumni. He was born in Crystal City, Texas, to a family of migrant farm workers, and he worked in the fields as a young boy. In 1958, he earned a bachelor’s degree at Texas State with a major in English and minors in Spanish, history, and education. He later earned a master’s degree in education here, before moving on to complete another master’s degree in Spanish and a Ph.D. in Romance languages and literature. He became a nationally recognized author of Chicano literature and taught at several schools and universities in Texas and the Southwest. His novel …y no se lo tragó la tierra / …And the Earth Did Not Devour Him was published in 1971 and is widely regarded as his masterpiece. In 1979, Dr. Rivera became chancellor of the University of California, Riverside — a role he held until his passing in 1984 at the early age of 48.
In 1995, Texas State's College of Education established the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children's Book Award, which honors authors and illustrators who create literature depicting the Mexican American experience. The 2015-2016 Common Experience theme celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Tomás Rivera Book Award, as well as the life and legacy of Dr. Rivera himself.