AUSTIN, Texas—Professor William C. Powers Jr. has been appointed as the new dean of The University of Texas School of Law, UT Austin Executive Vice President and Provost Sheldon Ekland-Olson announced Monday.
An expert in torts, Powers is the Hines H. Baker and Thelma Kelley Baker Chair in Law and a University Distinguished Teaching Professor at UT Austin. He is especially well known for his writings on products liability, a field in which he remains active in cutting-edge litigation. He also teaches and writes in jurisprudence. Additionally, Powers has been recognized for his outstanding talents in the classroom through his appointment to the Academy of Distinguished Teachers. Membership in this academy is the highest honor the University bestows on gifted classroom teachers.
“Professor Powers comes recommended with great enthusiasm by the law school community, its faculty, students, and alumni,” said Ekland-Olson. “He is a person of intelligence and creative energy, and has a passion for excellence. These qualities will serve him well as we craft remedies for the challenges of broad-based student access to a legal education, engage the tasks of enhancing the law school’s national prominence, build programs of excellence in the classroom and develop well-targeted practical experience in our clinical programs. We are fortunate, indeed, to have a colleague of Bill’s standing, energy and talent at the helm.”
Ekland-Olson said that among the most important issues facing the new dean will be how to secure broader ethnic representation among the students desiring a legal education. In addition, there are clear indications that a strong faculty recruitment initiative, including enhanced representation of women, is needed.
“Together the faculty, students and alumni will need to reinforce in all law students their professional obligation to extend service to those who are underserved; to strengthen the school’s role in law reform and improvements in the administration of justice in the state, national and international arenas; and to advance through its scholarship, society’s understanding of the law and the role law plays in a free society. With strong academic programs in place, a broader-based representation among its students achieved and enhanced strength for an already strong faculty secured, the new dean will be in better position to lay claim to elite ranking among the nation’s leading law schools,” Ekland-Olson said.
UT Austin President Larry R. Faulkner said, “Powers clearly commands very broad respect for his superb record of teaching, scholarship and service to the legal profession. I am extremely pleased that he has consented to serve as the new dean, and I have high expectations that, under his leadership, the School of Law will reach new heights in its service to the people of Texas.”
Powers came to Texas from the University of Washington School of Law in 1978. He is the author of Texas Products Liability Law(Butterworth, 2nd ed., 1992) and co-author of Cases and Materials on Torts(West, 2nd ed., 1998) and Cases and Materials on Products Liability(West, 2nd ed., 1994). He recently finished his work as reporter for the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Apportionment of Liability.He is a member of the American Law Institute.
Powers succeeds M. Michael Sharlot, who last October announced plans to resign after serving as dean for more than five years. He will remain at the law school as a professor, teaching criminal law and the law of evidence.
Faulkner said UT Austin is deeply indebted to Sharlot “for the energy and intelligence he has demonstrated on behalf of the law school during the past five years. During this time, there have been many extraordinary challenges, which he has met with imagination and commitment. I remain personally grateful to him for all he has done for the University.”
Sharlot said he expects Powers to enter his new position with widespread affection and admiration among our alumni, his colleagues, the national legal academic community and many leaders of the legislature, judges and practitioners.
“No new law dean at The University of Texas is, at the outset of his term, as well equipped to discharge the duties of his office as is Bill Powers. In his 23 years of service, he has displayed excellence in every area of achievement expected of faculty,” Sharlot said.
Founded in 1883, the UT School of Law is one of the oldest law schools in the nation. With an enrollment of 1,400 Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD) degree candidates, UT also is one of the nation’s largest law schools. A review of recent academic reputation surveys published in the 1998 Journal of Legal Education found that the UT School of Law faculty ranked 11th in the nation. Rankings that employ objective measures of faculty quality rate Texas even more highly. UT is one of only 11 law schools in the United States to have two active faculty members who are elected Fellows in law of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the nation’s most prestigious academic honorary society.