An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

Contact Information
Friends of The Daily Texan, Inc.
1401 Lavaca St
Austin, TX 78701

[email protected]

Former UT President Bill Powers, who supported The Texan during tough financial time, dies

William C. Powers Jr., 28th president of the The University of Texas at Austin, and 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, died Sunday.

Powers passed away in Austin from complications from a fall several months earlier and from oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy, a rare adult-onset muscle disorder.

In addition to his other achievements, Powers also came to the financial aid of The Daily Texan, student newspaper at UT, during a particularly critical moment in its history.

“Powers’ aid to The Texan never got full credit,” said John Reetz, president of Friends of The Daily Texan. “Six years ago, The Texan’s financial situation was in dire straits due to earlier management problems, and severe cutbacks were the only solution from those then managing Texas Student Media.

“Several thing happened at once: formation of the Friends of The Texan group to oppose the cutbacks and to raise funds and support The Texan financially, the move of The Texan to Moody College of Communication, and hiring of a new director of Texas Student Media to work to solve TSM management and financial issues.

“And critical to recovery,” Reetz said, “was Powers stepping in to provide $1,050,000 in  transition funding for its move to Moody College to support salaries and to offset historical budget imbalances.”

The Texan and Texas Student Media, like all media companies, faces severe challenges, but the financial and management picture has improved substantially  since  2013, due to Powers’ support of student journalism.

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.

UT News reports: “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.”

Off the Forty Acres, Powers was a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church. He loved travel, golf, crossword puzzles, wine and, most of all, time with family and friends.

During his time as law school dean, he rose to national prominence as author of the “Powers Report,” which in 2002 exposed wrongdoings at Enron and led to congressional investigations and criminal prosecutions relating to the Houston-based energy company.

Powers was born in Los Angeles in 1946 to Mildred Rose (Fluke) Powers and William Charles Powers Sr., and was raised in Southern California. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, then served for three years in the U.S. Navy, stationed mostly in BahrainHe graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University Law School, where he edited the Law Review, then clerked for a federal Ninth Circuit appeals court judge before taking his first teaching job at the University of Washington.