Chris Thomason, chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Hope-Texarkana, was named 2018 Hempstead County Educator of the Year on Monday at the Hope-Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce Banquet.
The award is given based on nomination letters from community members in the county.
"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. ... He is a person who can effectively mix the aspirations of a dreamer with the achievements of a go-getter."
Chancellor Thomason is a 1991 graduate of Hope High School. Thomason received a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1995 and graduated with high honors from the UALR Bowen School of Law in 1998.
He and his wife, Penny, have been married for 22 years and have a 12-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."
Thomason began practicing law in Hope in 1998 and was a member of the Wright, Burke, Thomason and Graham Law Firm through the end of 2002. In 2003, he opened his own private practice in Hope. He served as deputy prosecuting attorney for the 8th Judicial District North (Hempstead and Nevada counties) from 1999-2002.
In 2002, Thomason 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 chairman of the Rail and Mass Transit Subcommittee and Joint Performance Review Committee.
He was recognized by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette as one of the Top Ten Legislators in the Arkansas General Assembly in 2003. In addition, Thomason received the Advocate of Justice Award from the Arkansas Prosecuting Attorneys Association and Advocate of the Year from the Advance Practice Nurses Council. He was named a Champion for Children by the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.
Thomason was elected Prosecuting Attorney for the 8th Judicial District North in 2006 and took office Jan. 1, 2007. He served on the Arkansas Prosecuting Attorneys Association's Legislative Committee.
On August 1, 2008, Thomason became chancellor of UAHT (then University of Arkansas Community College at Hope). He previously served on the UAHT Foundation board and as an adjunct faculty member.
Thomason was elected to the Arkansas Association of Two Year Colleges (now the Arkansas Community Colleges) Executive Committee, where he served a two-year term as chairman representing the 22 member colleges across the state. During this chairmanship, he led the organization through its transition from the founding executive director to the new leadership of Mr. Bill Stovall.
Thomason is chairman of the Southwest Arkansas Community College Consortium, a group made up of presidents and chancellors of five community colleges committed to working together to develop a regional vision for education and economic development. He has served as a member of the Southwest Arkansas Workforce Investment Board and Arkansas Workforce Investment Board. He is former chairman of the Criminal Justice Institute of the University of Arkansas Advisory Board and just completed a six-year term on the Arkansas Board of Law Examiners. He also now serves on the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute Board.
Under Thomason's leadership, the 50-year-old UAHT has seen record enrollment and graduation rates. The college was recognized as one of the fastest-growing colleges in the state. In 2012, the college founded and constructed its Texarkana campus, which expanded in 2016 with a professions building and professional programs.
Since 2008, the college has built and launched Hempstead Hall, a regional cultural and entertainment venue, and developed and deployed a first-of-its-kind textbook rental program. The program is being replicated around the state. Campus expansions and programs have made it the 19th-largest institution in Arkansas to the 10th largest.