By Casey Curtis/UAHT Communications Coordinator
HOPE, AR – Chris Thomason, Chancellor of the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana, was named the 2018 Hempstead County Educator of the Year at the Hope-Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce Banquet on Monday, March 12. The recipient of this award is selected based on nomination letters from Hempstead County community members.
“The recipient of the 2018 Educator of the Year is described as someone who goes above and beyond to make Hope and southwest Arkansas a better place to live,” according to nomination letters. “This person is more than just a mover and a shaker; he is someone who actually accomplishes things and gets them done. He is a person who can effectively mix the aspirations of a dreamer with the achievements of a go-getter.”
Chancellor Thomason is a hometown boy and a 1991graduate of Hope High School. Thomason received a Bachelor of Arts (Cum laude) in Criminal Justice from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1995. He graduated with High Honors from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Bowen School of Law in 1998.
Chris and his wife Penny have been married for twenty-two years. They are the proud parents of a twelve-year-old son, Allen Christopher.
“This year’s Educator of the Year innovates and collaborates,” the nomination letters expressed. “He is not afraid to enlist the aid of others, and share credit for the success of educational improvements that ultimately advance this region’s workforce and quality of life. Sometimes that means going out on a limb, which everyone in rural Arkansas knows is where you find the fruit.”
Chris began practicing law in Hope in 1998 and was a member of the Wright, Burke, Thomason and Graham Law Firm until the end of 2002. In 2003, he opened his own private practice law office in Hope. He served as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for the 8th Judicial District North (Hempstead and Nevada County) from 1999-2002.
In 2002 he was elected to his first of two terms representing District 3 in the Arkansas House of Representatives. In the Arkansas House, he served on the House Transportation Committee, State Agencies and Government Affairs Committee, Joint Budget Committee, Judiciary Committee and Insurance and Commerce Committee. He was the Chairman of the Rail and Mass Transit Subcommittee and Chairman of the Joint Performance Review Committee. Chris was recognized by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette as one of the “Top Ten Legislators” in the Arkansas General Assembly in 2003. In addition, he received the “Advocate of Justice Award” by the Arkansas Prosecuting Attorneys Association, the “Advocate of the Year” by the Advance Practice Nurses Council, and was named a “Champion for Children” by the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.
Chris was elected Prosecuting Attorney for the Eighth North Judicial District in 2006 and took office January 1, 2007. As a member of the Arkansas Prosecuting Attorneys Association, he served on their Legislative Committee.
On August 1, 2008, Chris became the Chancellor of the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana (then known as the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope). He had previously served on the College’s Foundation Board and as an adjunct faculty member for the College. Chris was elected to the Arkansas Association of Two Year Colleges (now known as Arkansas Community Colleges) Executive Committee, where he served a two-year term as the chairman representing the twenty-two (22) member colleges from across Arkansas. During his chairmanship of ACC, Chris led the organization through its transition from the founding executive director to the new leadership of Mr. Bill Stovall. Also, during his tenure, ACC acquired its permanent headquarters in the “Creative Corridor” of Downtown Little Rock.
Thomason is the chairman of the Southwest Arkansas Community College Consortium, a group made up of Presidents and Chancellors of five of Southwest Arkansas’ Community Colleges that are committed to working together to develop a regional vision for education and economic development. He has served as a Board member of the Southwest Arkansas Workforce Investment Board and Arkansas Workforce Investment Board. He is the past chairman of the Criminal Justice Institute of the University of Arkansas Advisory Board. He just completed a six-year term on the Arkansas Board of Law Examiners. He also currently serves on the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute Board.
Under the leadership of Chancellor Thomason, U of A Hope-Texarkana, which recently celebrated its 50th Anniversary, has experienced historic student enrollment and graduation rates. The college has been recognized as one of the fastest growing colleges in Arkansas. In 2012 the college founded and constructed the University of Arkansas Texarkana campus, located in Texarkana, Arkansas. The Texarkana campus has since expanded by adding a professions building in 2016. The expansion on the U of A Texarkana campus since its founding has allowed the college to grow educational offerings to fully serve the overall institutional mission of being a fully comprehensive, regional college supporting a broad spectrum of educational and professional programs.
Since 2008, U of A Hope-Texarkana has set all-time enrollment and graduation records. The institution has constructed and launched Hempstead Hall, the region’s premier cultural and entertainment venue. UAHT has also developed and deployed a first of its kind textbook rental program that has fundamentally changed one of the most significant barriers to student success and is now being replicated around the State. The campus has expanded its impact on serving the students in the region which has resulted in the campus growing from the 19th largest institution in Arkansas to the 10th largest this year.