A chance meeting with Kent Hance leads a single mother to graduate from Texas Tech

As one of the last graduating classes of Texas Tech’s first century took the stage Saturday, one student had a unique story that began with an encounter with the Chancellor Emeritus on an airplane in 2015.

Erica Flores, a Dallas general studies graduate, said she remembers visiting Kent Hance well.

“I wanted to go to Austin, I think, for a job,” Flores said. “I was on a Southwest flight and I was C-boarding, which basically means middle seat. So I was walking down the aisle just trying to find a good middle seat and I saw (Kent Hance) and a colleague. I remember he was wearing a sweater vest and a newsboy hat and he was just really handsome.”

Flores said she didn’t know at the time who he was or what a chancellor was.

Hance said they talked about her work, her family and he asked where she went to college. But Hance said he found out she wasn’t going to college.

That’s when Hance said he started talking to her about Texas Tech.

(left) Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec and Dallas General Studies graduate Erica Flores in conversation with Chancellor Emeritus Kent Hance.

Hance talks about timing, proudest moments

“I said, ‘Look, if you’re just taking one class and someone asks where you’re going to college, you can always tell me I went to Texas Tech. You don’t have to tell them everything,'” Hance said. “So we talked about 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. would be of great benefit to you.'”

They exchanged contact information and Hance said he shared her information with Tech’s recruiters, who got in touch with her.

Flores said Hance would check on her and make sure she completed the paperwork she needed to get admitted to the tech.

In 2016, Flores was accepted at Tech, where she initially studied General Studies as an online student, majoring in English, Technical Communication and Sociology. She and Hance stayed in touch.

However, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, presenting her with challenges throughout her process.

“He’s going to call and check and see how I’m doing,” she said. “I also have three children and he will be looking after them during COVID. He was really nice just to check if everyone is ok.”

The pandemic also provided Flores with an opportunity to reach out and study in other areas.

“They have brought other majors or program areas into the online offering and they have included psychology and humanities that I don’t think were originally in that bucket,” she said. “So now I’m doing my degree with a major in psychology, sociology and humanities.”

Flores said the real reason she went to college wasn’t for advancement in her career, it was personal.

“My oldest son is also at Texas Tech — he’s a junior — so I wanted to make sure I graduated before them,” she said. “I’m the first in my family to graduate and my kids are all on the right track to follow me, so I’m excited to be a role model for them. I think it’s more for my kids and my mother than it is for me. For me.”

Saturday’s graduation ceremony at the United Supermarkets Arena not only marked the occasion for Flores to become the first in her family to graduate from college, but it was also the second time Flores and Hance had met in person.

Flores said since Hance had such an impact on her life, she invited him to the opening ceremony.

Hance not only attended, but also presented her with the diploma.

Through her journey, Hance said he was impressed and inspired by her.

“It took me an easy five or 10 minutes but kept going because it changed her and 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 did.”

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