As one of the last graduating classes of Texas Tech’s first century walked the stage on Saturday, one student had a unique story that started with an encounter on an airplane in 2015 with the chancellor emeritus.
Erica Flores, a general studies graduate from Dallas, said she remembers the visit with Kent Hance quite well.
“I was going to Austin, I believe for work,” Flores said. “I was on a Southwest flight and I had C boarding, which basically means center seat. So I was walking down the aisle and just trying to find a good center seat and I saw (Kent Hance) and a colleague. I remember he had a sweater vest on and a newsboy cap and he just looked really nice”
Flores said she did not know who he was at the time or what a chancellor was.
Hance said they talked about her work, her family and he inquired where she went to college. But Hance said he found out she did not go to college.
That’s when Hance said he started talking to her about Texas Tech.
Hance speaks about timing, proudest moments
“I said, ‘Look, if you only take one course and somebody asks where you go to college, you can always say I went to Texas Tech. You don’t have to tell them everything,'” Hance said. “So we talked about the college and what she could do online. I said, ‘Well, try it and see if you like it and see if you can do it and I bet you can do it. You can do it and it’ d be a great benefit to you.'”
They traded contact information and Hance said he passed her information along to the recruiters at Tech, who got in touch with her.
Flores said Hance would check up on her and make sure she was completing the paperwork she needed to be admitted at Tech.
In 2016, Flores was accepted into Tech, where she first majored in general studies as an online student with a focus in English, technical communications and sociology. She and Hance kept in communication.
However, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, providing challenges during her process.
“He’ll call and check and see how I’m doing,” she said. “I have three kids, too, and he’ll check on them during COVID. He was really nice to just check in to make sure everyone was doing well.”
The pandemic also provided Flores with an opportunity to reach out and study other fields.
“They’ve welcomed other degree or program areas into online and included psychology and human sciences that weren’t originally, I think, in that bucket,” she said. “So now I’m graduating with concentrations in psychology, sociology and human sciences.”
Flores said the real reason she went to college was not for advancement in her career, but rather a personal one.
“My oldest son is also at Texas Tech – he’s a junior – so that’s kind of why I wanted to make sure that I graduated before them,” she said. “I’m the first in my family to graduate and my kids are all on the path to follow right behind me, so I’m excited to be that example for them. It’s more, I think, for my kids and for my mom than for me.”
Saturday’s graduation ceremony in the United Supermarkets Arena not only marked the occasion of Flores becoming the first to graduate college in her family, but it was also the second time Flores and Hance met in person.
Flores said since Hance had such an impact on her life, she invited him to the commencement ceremony.
Hance was not only in attendance but also handed her the diploma.
Through her journey, Hance said he is impressed and inspired by her.
“I took a simple five or 10 minutes, but kept doing it because it changed her and, and changed her life… and you never know what a little encouragement will go a long way,” he said. “I admire and respect her for doing what she’s done.”