During a long career as a historian, author, and educator, Dr. Thomas E. Chávez served as the Director of the Palace of the Governors (New Mexico’s state history museum) for 21 years and also served as the Director of the New Mexico Preservation Alliance, President of the New Mexico Association of Museums, and Executive Director of the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Prior to his time as an administrator, he taught courses on Southwestern history and history’s relationship with museum work at the College of Santa Fe. Chávez has also worked with numerous state and national organizations, most recently serving on the Board of Directors for the Smithsonian Institution Latino Center. In addition, Chávez has served in elected positions on the national boards of the American Association for State and Local History and the American Association of Museums. As a member of the board of New Mexico Endowment for the Humanities (now the New Mexico Humanities Council), he had terms both as the Vice Chair (1989-1991) and as the Chairman (1992-93).
As recognition of his support and dedication to the humanities, Chávez has received many awards and accolades during his career. Chávez was a recipient of the Fulbright Fellowship in 1987, through which he traveled to Spain to research the role of the Spanish in the American Revolution. He received the Distinguished History Medal from the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution for his research, and the 1998 Mayor’s Recognition Award for Excellence in the Arts in Santa Fe to commemorate his time and accomplishments working at the Palace of the Governors. He also received in the NMHC’s Excellence in Humanities award in 1997. In 2002, the University of New Mexico Alumni Association presented Chavez with its Zia Award, honoring his many successes in his field as a UNM alumni. For his work in organizing and leading a preservation workshop in Trujillo, Spain, Chavez was presented with the first El Premio Fundación de Salas in 2011.
An experienced fundraiser, he was a central figure in helping to raise $26 million for the planning and construction of the New Mexico History Museum, which is now incorporated into the Palace of the Governors. Chávez has published nine books and will be releasing an additional three during 2015. He has traveled, researched and presented abroad throughout his distinguished career.