Commencement Speakers

Dr. Thomas M. Hatfield

Fall 2018: Dr. Thomas M. Hatfield

For his entire adult life, Dr. Thomas M. Hatfield has been passionately committed to the ideals of community colleges. He believes in the importance of open admissions and equal opportunity for all in higher education, in the superiority of the “late bloomer,” and in giving everyone a second chance. To these ideals, he has devoted his professional life.

Dr. Hatfield's experiences with community colleges began at the age of 15 when his mother enrolled him in the community college of San Antonio, Texas. Later he earned a B.S. degree from Trinity University, followed by M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Texas at Austin, and a year of postgraduate study at UCLA.

Dr. Hatfield was 38 years old in 1973 when the ACC Board of Trustees selected him to be ACC’s first president. Hatfield envisioned ACC bringing post-secondary education and job training that would enable Austin’s diverse citizenry to more nearly achieve their potential and realize their dreams. Many people thought the greater Austin area had enough colleges and universities. As a public speaker, Hatfield employed analogies to help citizens and community leaders understand ACC’s role in the education-rich Austin community. He compared ACC to the “little red schoolhouse” of times past. He also employed the image of an “educational common market.” In an active speaking campaign, he told listeners that ACC would be good for the economy and good for people, who would have new opportunities for advancement and better-paying jobs. He described community colleges as uniquely American institutions that were well suited for Americans and their needs. To emphasize that ACC was for everyone, Hatfield established the President’s Office in the vacant, historically African-American high school at 900 Thompson Street in East Austin.

Under Hatfield’s leadership, ACC endeavored to unify a fragmented community. Education naturally liberalized individual and community life and, he said, should not be walled off from them. He sought access to public and corporate facilities for classroom space and changed the “lock-step” nature of higher education by promoting “individualized instruction.” He advocated weaving ACC into the fabric of the community by joining with hospitals and government for shared training, with theater groups for students to study the dramatic arts, and sharing book and periodical collections with the public library system.

In January 1977, Hatfield resigned as president of Austin Community College to accept a position as dean of the Division of Continuing Education at the University of Texas at Austin, where he remained until 2007 to become director of the Military History Institute at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at UT Austin. In 2011, he was named Dean Emeritus, and in 2017, the ACC Board of Trustees designated him President Emeritus.

In partial retirement, he has written two acclaimed books. One is the biography of Earl Rudder, Texas A&M’s famous president, Rudder: From Leader to Legend, published by the Texas A&M Press; and the other is On The Way: The Life and Times of Frank Denius, published by the University of Texas Press. Dr. Hatfield is a veteran, having enlisted in the Texas National Guard as a teenager, and was honorably discharged from the Army eleven years later as a captain in military intelligence.

Past commencement speakers

  • 2018 (Spring): Dr. Rufus Glasper, President and CEO of the League for Innovation in the Community College
  • 2017 (Fall) Roy Spence, Co-founder and Chairman, GSD&M and Co-founder/CEO, The Purpose Institute
  • 2017 (Spring) Dr. Byron McClenney, former community college CEO. and Dr. Kay McClenney, founding partner of Achieving the Dream
  • 2016 (Fall) Gus Garcia, Former Austin Mayor, founding member, ACC Board of Trustees, and Marina Garcia, Educator and Community Volunteer
  • 2016 (Spring) Art Acevedo, Austin Chief of Police 
  • 2015 (Fall) Belle S. Wheelan, Ph.D., President, Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of College and Schools
  • 2015 (Spring) Dr. Walter Bumphus, president/CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges, and Dr. Aileen Bumphus, executive director of the University of Texas at Austin’s Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence Gateway Scholars Program
  • 2014 (Fall) Victor Hwang, Executive Director of the Global Innovation Summit
  • 2014 (Spring) Dr. Dan Arvizu, Director & Chief Executive of National Renewable Energy Laboratory
  • 2013 (Fall) Ben Barnes, Former Lieutenant Governor of Texas
  • 2013 (Spring) Andres Alcantar, Texas Workforce Commission Chairman
  • 2012 (Fall) Wilhelmina Delco, Former Texas State Representative, founding member, ACC Board of Trustees, and Dr. Exalton Delco, Former ACC Vice-President, Academic Affairs
  • 2012 (Spring) Dr. John Roueche, UT-Austin Community College Leadership Program, and Dr. Suanne Roueche, Editor, NISOD Publications, Senior Lecturer, College of Education, UT-Austin
  • 2011 Kirk Watson, Texas State Senator
  • 2010 Dr. Belle S. Wheelan, President, Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of College and Schools
  • 2009 Wilhelmina Delco, Former Texas State Representative, founding member, ACC Board of Trustees
  • 2008 Donna Howard, Texas State Representative
  • 2007 Mark Strama, Texas State Representative
  • 2006 Richard Oppel, Editor, Austin American Statesman
  • 2005 Toby Hammett Futrell, City Manager, City of Austin
  • 2004 Gustavo Garcia Austin Mayor
  • 2003 Reynaldo Garcia, Executive Director, Texas Association of Community Colleges
  • 2002 Della May Moore, Outgoing Board of Trustees member
  • 2001 Carole Keeton Rylander, State Comptroller
  • 2000 Will Davis, Founding Member, ACC Board of Trustees
  • 1999 Kirk P. Watson, Mayor, City of Austin
  • 1998 Congressman Lloyd Doggett, U.S. House of Representatives, District 10
  • 1997 Dr. Richard Fonte, President, ACC
  • 1996 Barry Waite, Senior Vice-President Motorola
  • 1995 Dr. Donald G. Phelps, W.K. Kellogg Regents Professor, UT
  • 1994 Dr. Bill Segura, President, ACC
  • 1993 Dr. Charles A. Green, Chancellor, Houston Community College System
  • 1992 Dr. Manuel J. Justiz, A.M. Aikin Regents Chair in Education Leadership, UT
  • 1991 Rod A. Risley, Executive Director, Phi Theta Kappa
  • 1990 Lawrence Williford, Sr. VP Corporate Relations, Allstate Insurance Company
  • 1989 Hon. Parker McCollough, Texas House of Representatives
  • 1988 Larry Jenkins, VP, Lockheed Missiles and Space Company
  • 1987 Dr. William H. Pickens, Executive Director, California Postsecondary Higher Education Commission
  • 1986 Gonzalo Barrientos, State Senator, District 14
  • 1985 Dr. Dan Angell, President, ACC
  • 1984 Dr. Lorrin Kennamer, Dean, College of Education, UT
  • 1983 Raymond Bynum, Commissioner, Texas Education Agency
  • 1982 J. J. Pickle, Congressman, 10th Congressional District
  • 1981 Br. Stephen Wlash, President, St. Edward’s University
  • 1980 Dr. Kenneth Ashworth, Commissioner THECB
  • 1979 Wilhelmina Delco, State Representative District 37-D
  • 1978 Carole McClellan, Mayor, City of Austin
  • 1977 Lloyd Doggett, Member, Texas Senate
  • 1976 Jimmy Snell, Mayor Pro Tempore, City of Austin
  • 1975 Gonzalo Barrientos, Texas House of Representatives
  • 1974 C.C. Colvert, Professor Emeritus, Community College Education, UT