March 14, 2019

UT President Bill Powers

UT President Bill Powers was a proponent of diversity and reached out to the East Austin community in a variety of ways.

I’ll never forget the first time I met Bill Powers. He was the Dean of the UT Law School at the time, and I was the Director of the Center for European Studies. I was looking for funding from the law school for a conference I was working on. I went into Bill’s office and there he was, larger than life, chewing on a cigar with his feet up on the desk. Needless to say, I was a bit intimidated, but he immediately put me at ease.

Little did I know that in only a couple of years he would be the president of the university and I would be a vice-provost in his administration. In 2006, Bill was responsible for implementing a new strategic vision for undergraduate education at UT, creating the College of Undergraduate Studies and signature courses which connected freshmen with the “treasures” of the university, including our museums and our best faculty. With his support, the College of Liberal Arts added new majors in European Studies and International Relations/Global Studies.

My favorite memories of Bill are traveling to Mexico to develop relationships with top universities there, giving life to the school’s motto, “What Starts Here Changes the World.” Bill was tireless in his efforts to promote diversity. We traveled across Texas to recruit students from high schools that hadn’t traditionally sent students to UT. He supported the Longhorn Scholars program with presidential scholarships and was a tireless advocate for the university’s right to recruit a diverse student body.

One moment I’ll never forget was the day after a student had walked onto campus with an assault rifle. I had seen the police SWAT vehicles heading to campus, and it was an incredibly scary moment for all. The student went into the library and took his own life. Fortunately, no other students were harmed. When I saw Bill the next day, I told him that I was thankful for his leadership during that difficult day. He commented on how lucky we were that the student hadn’t turned the gun on other students. His concern for the students and the campus was palpable.

Bill was popular because we all knew he cared for the students and the faculty. He fought for us, and we supported him in that fight to maintain UT as a leader in higher education. I will always appreciate his support for me in my role as an administrator and he will always be remembered for his impressive accomplishments in every aspect of his professional life.