The UT Tower will be darkened Sunday, March 10 as the university community remembers and honors former President Bill Powers.
William C. Powers Jr., the university’s 28th president, was an esteemed teacher, nationally recognized legal scholar, and staunch believer in the value of the public research university who defended UT against challenges to its mission.
Powers passed away on Sunday in Austin from complications from a fall several months earlier and from oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy, a rare adult-onset muscle disorder.
In addition to serving as president from 2006 to 2015, he had been a member of the School of Law faculty for more than 40 years, including six as dean. He taught courses in torts and a freshman philosophy seminar, connecting with thousands of students in his career.
“Bill was an eloquent and fierce champion for UT students, faculty and staff. Never was this more evident than in the early and mid-2010s, when Bill put every ounce of himself into defending the soul of our university,” said President Gregory L. Fenves, who was recruited by Powers to return to UT as engineering dean in 2008. “For 40 years on these Forty Acres, Bill Powers embodied the UT motto, ‘What starts here changes the world.’ He lived those words. But even more importantly, he made sure legions of other Longhorns did too. We’ll miss him dearly.”
He is survived by his wife of 36 years, Kim Heilbrun of Austin, five children and their spouses and partners: Matt Powers and Jeny Wegbreit of San Francisco; Kate Powers and Scott Puryear of New York City; Allison Powers and Oscar Useche of Lubbock; Annie Powers and George Franklin of New York City; and Reid Powers and Kelsey McManus of Austin; six grandchildren; and his sister Susan Powers.
A public memorial service will be held at a later date.
Among his many accomplishments as the second-longest-serving president in UT’s history, he oversaw the establishment of two of UT’s 18 colleges and schools and the successful completion of a $3 billion capital campaign, the largest ever undertaken at a public university in Texas. He also presided over the completion or construction of 13 major buildings that changed the face of the campus.
“Bill Powers was a man of honor, a man of integrity and man who would not compromise his principles no matter the circumstance,” said Kenny Jastrow, BBA 1969, MBA 1971, who chaired the capital campaign under Powers and also chaired the Commission of 125, a group of alumni and experts that set a vision for improving a UT education. “Bill Powers was one of UT’s most outstanding presidents — and the best friend anybody could have.”