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William Powers Jr. presents State of the University address on campus after inauguration as 28th president of The University of Texas at Austin

William Powers Jr. presented an ambitious vision for the future of The University of Texas at Austin on Friday, Sept. 29, during formal ceremonies on campus installing him as the university’s 28th president and a celebration marking the institution’s 123rd birthday.

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While we have made progress diversifying our campus, more needs to be done. I pledge to make diversity one of my highest priorities. 

Global Impact

The leading public university in the country will also have a global impact. When I began my career in teaching, international issues were a small set of concerns that few students and leaders in our economic and political world needed to address. During my career this has changed dramatically. For many years my own field of tort law and products liability was a very local subject. Today no one can practice law effectively without representing clients who have legal issues around the world. And that is true of nearly every area of business, law, and public service.

UT is blessed with a rich array of global programs, including the Lozano-Long Institute for Latin American Studies, which is one of the crowning jewels on our campus. But we must expand and coordinate these international and global efforts in a more effective way. We are in the process of establishing a task force to examine this very topic. To be the great American public university we need to succeed in those efforts, and we will.

A Robust Research Enterprise

One of UT’s greatest strengths is our research.  We have a large, robust research enterprise that provides world class opportunities for our faculty, graduate students, and increasingly, for our undergraduates. The cumulative force of research that goes on here every day is the distinguishing characteristic that separates us from smaller liberal arts colleges and other public universities that do not have our research firepower.

Last year we had $423 million in sponsored research, an almost 11 percent increase from the previous year.  We rank fifth in federal funding for universities without medical schools.  This means that we are again within striking distance to number one.  And several strategic investments on our campus will help us approach that goal. 

We are building new facilities to house the Center for Nano and Molecular Science and Technology, the Institute for Geophysics, the Imaging Research Center, the Texas Advanced Computing Center, and the Dell Pediatric Research Institute.  Our institutional support for this broad range of research activity, from the sciences and computing to health care, indicates the impressive range of UT’s talent and abilities. In addition, we need to do a better job of transferring more of the technology developed on this campus into our economy.  We will do a better job.

Our research mission contributes tremendous economic benefit to the state of Texas. We transform our $276 million annual state appropriation into $7.4 billion in economic activity.  This is a multiplier of more than 25 to 1. And that does not even include the enormous increase in earning potential that our graduates enjoy as a result of their education. To our lawmakers I say: Investing in UT is a sound investment in the economy of Texas.       

The Value of Higher Education

The citizens of Texas need to better understand that their future is tied to an educated workforce, intellectual resources, technological innovation, and a critical mass of intellectual capital. Bob Gates, president of Texas AandM University, and I are planning a number of events where we will emphasize to state and community leaders across Texas that major research universities are essential to economic progress. President Gates and I have joined forces in an effort we are calling, “Horns and Aggies: Together for a Change.” One of our themes will be that world-class research universities perform a special role in the state and that, accordingly, they need sustainable, reliable, and long-term funding. This is a high priority for me as we approach the 80th session of the Texas Legislature in January.

Our alumni and friends certainly understand the value of higher education. I am pleased that for the fiscal year that ended in August, total gifts to the University amounted to $213 million, an impressive increase over the previous year’s total of $167 million. This represents our most significant year of fundraising without a capital campaign. Also, the year’s total includes more small gifts, an indication that philanthropic activity is expanding to include a greater number of donors.  This is a wonderful time to be a Longhorn, and our alumni and friends are responding with pride and confidence in their favorite university.


This is our time at Texas.  Yours and mine.  We’re in this together.  Everyone here today – and everyone who is a part of this university family worldwide – must contribute to our common goal of becoming the best public university in the country. 

I have tried to show that, when we consider the attributes of the great public university of the 21st century, UT is not far off the mark. When we compare ourselves to other top public universities, we find that for most criteria, we are very near the top. We have work to do, but we have a plan to get there.  That plan benefits the people of Texas as much as it benefits our institution. What starts here really does change the world.

But no president can do this alone. I need your help. Help from the faculty, from the staff, and from the students. From the Regents, from the Legislature, from our elected state leaders, from our alumni, and even from our friends at AandM. We will make our case to the state. We will make our case to our supporters with the most ambitious capital campaign in our history. We will become the leading public university in America. And Texas will be stronger as a result.