William Charles Powers Jr. (born May 30, 1946) was the 28th president of The University of Texas at Austin, the second-longest serving president in the University's history. He held the position from February 1, 2006 to July 2, 2015, when he was succeeded by Gregory L. Fenves.
Powers was selected in November 2005 as the sole finalist for the position of president of the University of Texas at Austin. 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. Powers resigned the presidency in June, 2015, partly as the result of external pressures that came to center on admissions practices at the university.
Currently, Powers serves as University Distinguished Teaching Professor and holds the Hines H. Baker and Thelma Kelley Baker Chair in Law at the School of Law.
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.
Powers has also worked at Southern Methodist University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Washington. 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.
Powers has authored several law texts, including: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. In 2012, he became Vice Chair of the Association of American Universities and became Chair of the organization on October 22, 2013. He is a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Austin.
While president, Powers oversaw the reform of the undergraduate curriculum and the founding of both the School of Undergraduate Studies and the Dell Medical School. An eight-year fundraising project he spearheaded called the Campaign for Texas raised $3.12 billion for the university. During his tenure the University also completed or began construction on 13 new buildings.
On July 4, 2014 an anonymous source reported that UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa had asked Powers to resign, prior to the impending meeting of the Board of Regents, or face termination. The Board meeting agenda 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 at first indicated he would not resign, saying it would "cast the university and our state in a highly unfavorable light." However, on July 9, 2014, Cigarroa released a statement that Powers nevertheless agreed to resign effective June 2015.
On February 12, 2015 an investigation ordered by the University of Texas found that Powers had helped certain applicants, including those with lesser academic credentials, gain admission if they had been recommended by legislators and influential people. 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%. President Powers and his Chief of Staff "each failed to speak with candor and forthrightness expected of people in their positions of trust and leadership," the report stated. Powers agreed to step down in June 2014. He 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." Subsequently, the Austin American-Statesman determined that, as Chancellor, Cigarroa had participated in this selfsame aspect of the admissions process, sometimes making notes on the letters about the status of the individuals requesting special consideration in admissions.