William Powers, Jr.

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William Charles Powers Jr. (born May 30, 1946) was the 28th president of The University of Texas at Austin, a position he has held from February 1, 2006 to June 2, 2015.[1]

Powers was selected in November 2005 as the sole finalist for the position of president of the University of Texas at Austin.[2] In December 2005, he was officially named president of the University and succeeded Larry Faulkner when he left office in February 2006. Prior to his appointment, he served as Dean of The University of Texas School of Law since 2000, a position that was later filled by Constitutional Law scholar, Lawrence Sager. President Powers also serves as University Distinguished Teaching Professor and holds the Hines H. Baker and Thelma Kelley Baker Chair in Law at the School of Law.[3]

Following a public dispute with UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, in July 2014 Powers announced his resignation effective June 2015.


Powers obtained his B.A. in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley and his juris doctor from Harvard Law School. During his undergraduate years at Berkeley, he became a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity, and at Harvard he was managing editor of the Harvard Law Review.[citation needed]


Powers has also worked at Southern Methodist University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Washington.[citation needed] Powers is a former member of the Enron Corporation Board of Directors and chaired the Special Investigative Committee to investigate the causes of Enron's bankruptcy. He was also a member of the Board of Trustees of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary from 2004-2010.[4]

Powers has authored several notable law texts, including but not limited to:[citation needed]

  • Cases and Materials in Products Liability
  • Cases and Materials in Torts
  • Texas Products Liability Law

In 2008, Powers was appointed to the rank of Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur in France’s orders of chivalry.[5] In 2012, he became Vice Chair of the Association of American Universities [6] and became Chair of the organization on October 22, 2013.[7] He is a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Austin.[citation needed]

Firing of Mack Brown[edit]

Sports Illustrated reported on December 24, 2013 that Powers forced Texas Longhorns Head Coach “Mack” Brown to resign.[8] Brown was formerly head football coach at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill during the period covered in part by a recent report on academic cheating by UNC athletes. “The scandal reached back to the final years of legendary men's basketball coach Dean Smith's tenure, as well as Mack Brown's time as football coach before leaving for Texas and John Swofford's stint as athletic director before becoming Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner.” [9]


UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa asked President Bill Powers to resign or face termination over the July 4th holiday in 2014, in what the UT Faculty and some alumni came to call the "July 4th Coup".[10] The agenda for an upcoming meeting of the UT System Board of Regents indicated regents would discuss Powers in an executive session. Cigarroa attributed the request to a "breakdown of communication, collegiality, trust and a willingness to work together for the good of the university." Powers indicated he would not resign on the timeline proposed by Cigarroa, saying it would "cast the university and our state in a highly unfavorable light." The University's faculty, students and alumni generally rallied to Powers' support, demanding that Cigarroa withdraw his request for Powers' resignation.[11] Additionally, legislators on the Texas House of Representatives' transparency committee sent a letter requesting that the Board of Regents delay any personnel decisions regarding Powers or other witnesses from the ongoing impeachment hearings against Regent Wallace Hall. Ultimately, Cigarroa withdrew his request and agreed to the succession timeline originally proposed by Powers.[12]

On February 12, 2015 an investigation ordered by the University of Texas found that Bill Powers had in some cases helped applicants, including those with questionable academic credentials, gain admission if they had been recommended by legislators and influential people.[13] According to the report, from 2009 to 2014, well connected students flagged by university officials were admitted 74% of the time compared to an overall admission rate of 40%. [14] Powers told the Wall Street Journal that he had "intervened on behalf of a relatively small number of students" but denied that it was "undue influence".[15] Support for Powers among faculty, students, alumni and legislators remained strong, however, with many noting that the practices employed by Powers and his predecessors were similar to those employed at selective public and private universities across the U.S.[16] Hillary Hart, a past chairwoman of the university's Faculty Council, expressed the general sense of the faculty that “there is really nothing in this report to comment on,” adding that “there’s nothing in it that makes us any less proud of our president.”[17] After reviewing the report, UT Chancellor McRaven declined to take any disciplinary action against Powers, noting that he would review longstanding UT admission practices but that Powers had not taken any action against UT policy or existing law.[18] The debate, however, continues in some quarters, and Chancellor McRaven has appointed a committee of former chancellors to study the matter and report on best practices.[19]


  1. ^ https://www.utexas.edu/president/bio
  2. ^ http://utsa.edu/today/2005/11/powers.cfm
  3. ^ http://www.utexas.edu/law/faculty/profile.php?id=wpowers
  4. ^ Daily Texan "UT expands on available space instead of acquiring important community buildings"(October 28, 2013)
  5. ^ [1], statesman.com
  6. ^ UT News, "Powers Elected Vice Chair of Association of American Universities"(October 26, 2012)
  7. ^ Daily Texan, "Powers elected chair of Association of American Universities"(October 22, 2013)
  8. ^ Polzer, Tim. "Texas president forced Mack Brown to resign". 
  9. ^ Beard, Aaron. "Probe: UNC academic fraud was 'shadow curriculum". http://www.sfgate.com/. Retrieved 23 October 2014. 
  10. ^ "TXEXplainer: The Latest on the July 4th Coup". 
  11. ^ Jaschik, Scott. "Battle for Texas". 
  12. ^ Taliaferro, Tim. "Cigarroa Relents: Powers to Keep Job Until 2015". 
  13. ^ http://www.wsj.com/articles/president-of-university-of-texas-at-austin-faulted-on-admissions-1423786177 Wall Street Journal UT Faulted
  14. ^ http://www.wsj.com/articles/president-of-university-of-texas-at-austin-faulted-on-admissions-1423786177 Wall Street Journal UT Faulted
  15. ^ http://www.wsj.com/articles/president-of-university-of-texas-at-austin-faulted-on-admissions-1423786177 Wall Street Journal UT Faulted
  16. ^ Rivard, Ry. "In Texas, Questioning Powers". 
  17. ^ Rivard, Ry. "In Texas, Questioning Powers". 
  18. ^ Barnett, Marissa. "Powers says he acted in ‘best interest’ of university; UT Chancellor says no disciplinary action warranted". 
  19. ^ Barnett, Marissa. "Powers says he acted in ‘best interest’ of university; UT Chancellor says no disciplinary action warranted". 

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Larry R. Faulkner
President of University of Texas at Austin
Succeeded by
Gregory L. Fenves