Berea College Celebrates 237 Graduates

Berea College Celebrates 237 Graduates

May 8, 2023

Berea College celebrated 237 graduates this past weekend at the 2023 commencement ceremony. These graduates represent 25 states and 26 countries.

Tommy Espinoza, a prominent architect of Latino community and business development policy and programs, spoke to graduates on Love and Sacrifice by asking them to “reflect on that one person in your life that loved you and sacrificed for you to reach this day,” illustrating the importance of support systems from his own career experiences and the examples of other great leaders for social change.

Photo of Tom Espinoza speaking at Berea College's 2023 May Commencement ceremony.

Espinoza began his career more than 45 years ago in his hometown of Phoenix, where he organized youth groups in Phoenix’s low-income neighborhoods to help members of the Latinx community escape poverty and crime through educational programs.

He continued his mission at Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC) by working with Latinx families to help them gain access to affordable housing. Because of Espinoza, CLPC has become one of the country’s most dynamic forces for Latinx empowerment and economic well-being. During his tenure at CPLC, he was selected by the White House to advise President Jimmy Carter as a member of the Mexican American Advisory Council.

In 2005, the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations recognized Espinoza for his distinguished work serving the Mexican community in the United States. In 2014, the United States House of Representatives awarded him a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition.

Co-founder of the Raza Development Fund (RDF), the largest Latinx Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in the United States, Espinoza served as president and chief economic officer of the organization until his recent retirement. He also serves on several boards, including the National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders, Exports and Imports Bank of the United States, Glacier Bank, Foothills Bank, BBVA Compass Advisory, Greater Phoenix Leadership, Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce and the Catholic University of America: Board of Visitors-School of Arts & Sciences.

During the ceremony, Berea College President Lyle Roelofs presented Espinoza with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in recognition of his life’s work.

“Mr. Espinoza has been a bridge-builder across racial, cultural, political and socio-economic barriers, and his lifelong commitment to serving others is reflective of Berea College’s Great Commitments,” Roelofs said.

Graduation photos can be found here.

Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, focuses on learning, labor and service. The College only admits academically promising students with limited financial resources—primarily from Kentucky and Appalachia—but welcomes students from 41 states and 76 countries. Every Berea student receives a Tuition Promise Scholarship, which means no Berea student pays for tuition. Berea is one of nine federally recognized Work Colleges, so students work 10 hours or more weekly to earn money for books, housing and meals. The College’s motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,” speaks to its inclusive Christian character.