Celebrating Black History Month: Hopeton Hay, UT System

Image of Hopeton Hay smiling at the camera, with text on image: Black History Month "The UT System HUB program opens the doors of Opportunity"

Hopeton Hay

Executive Director HUB Programs
UT System Office of HUB Programs

Born in New Orleans, Hopeton spent portions of his childhood living in France, Texas and New Jersey as his father served in the U.S. Army before moving back to The Big Easy. Hopeton worked in the newspaper business and was the executive director of the Capital City African American Chamber of Commerce (now called the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce) before joining The University of Texas System in 2005, becoming director of the Office of Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB) program in 2012. An amateur historian and bibliophile, Hopeton created and hosts the podcast “Diverse Voices Book Review,” which features interviews with a wide range of culturally diverse authors of recently published fiction and nonfiction. You can also hear him conducting socially pertinent interviews on Austin’s KAZI FM 88.7 at 9:30 a.m. every Tuesday.


Black History Month is a time to honor the triumphs and struggles of African Americans throughout U.S. history. What is foremost on your mind today?

The last two-and-a-half years have been some of the most tumultuous times in our nation since I began voting in 1978. As we celebrate Black History Month, I think of the work of civil rights leaders such as Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Martin Luther King Jr.John Lewis, A. Phillip Randolph, Roy Wilkins and countless others that paved the way for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 and other legislation removing the barriers to opportunities for African Americans and many others. The challenges of today remind me that the historic marches and demonstrations for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s did not signal the end of the work to “…form a more perfect Union, establish Justice ... and secure the Blessings of Liberty…” as stated in the preamble to the Constitution.

There are other Black history-makers I remember such as Norman Francis, who served as president of my alma mater, Xavier University of Louisiana, a Historically Black College and University he led for 47 years. Under his leadership, Xavier consistently led the nation in the number of African American graduates who go on to complete medical school. Its’ success was so prominent that The New York Times Magazine published an article about it on Sept. 9, 2015, titled, A Prescription for More Black DoctorsHe also was one of the founders of Liberty Bank and Trust, created in 1972, which today is the largest Black-owned bank in the nation with just over $1 billion in assets. He also happens to be the father of recently retired UT System employee Patrick Francis who worked in the Health Affairs Office for many years.


As the UT System’s Executive Director of HUB programs, did someone influence your decision to enter this specific field? If so, who and what impact did that person have on your life?

I have been working in this arena professionally since 1988. But I began to investigate these programs when I was business editor of a Black-owned newspaper, The New Age, from 1986 to 1988. The late Horace Williams, who was Minority/Women Business Enterprises (M/WBE) coordinator for Houston Metro, was the first to help me understand the history and importance of HUB programs. He was my first mentor. As I progressed through various related programs through the years, from working as executive director of the Capital City African American Chamber of Commerce to serving on the board of the Austin/Central Texas Chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants, my knowledge and commitment to the programs grew.               

In 2020, the UT System Board of Regents celebrated the 30th anniversary of the passage of the HUB Policy, initially named the M/WBE Policy. When researching the history of the program through board minutes, I discovered the amazing work of the late Col. Lewis Wright in building the program. He served as the UT System Administration’s HUB coordinator and associate vice chancellor for business affairs from the mid-1990s to his retirement in 2004. I discovered a treasure trove of reports he provided to the board documenting the structuring and performance of the program System-wide. When I discussed the history of the HUB program with former UT System Chancellor Bill Cunningham, he praised Wright’s work. While I did not know Wright well, he provided sage advice at a critical point in my career. 


Why is it important for The UT System to have a HUB program and can you provide an example of how it helps minority-owned businesses compete and succeed?

The UT System HUB program opens the doors of opportunities for firms that can competitively provide the products and services we use. A firm like Haynes-Eaglin-Waters, LLC, a construction contractor, is a great example of the impact of the program. It was co-founded by Cloteal Haynes in 1988. Haynes, who earned an undergraduate and graduate degree from UT Austin, is also president of The Precursors, an organization whose members are African American alumni of UT  Austin who entered the university in the late 1950s through 1970s. Mentored by Hensel Phelps under the UT System Mentor-Protégé program, her firm has worked on UT System projects across the state, including UT Austin, UT Arlington, UT MD Anderson Cancer Center, UT Health Houston, UT Health San Antonio and UT Medical Branch Galveston. Through her hard work, perseverance and business expertise, she grew her company from doing six-figure jobs on UT System construction projects to successfully winning and executing multi-million-dollar contracts on UT campuses.