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10 Things You Need to Know About UT System’s Next Chancellor

Longhorn and Navy SEAL Admiral William McRaven was named the sole finalist to become chancellor of the University of Texas System. Here’s a quick look at the leader.

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William McRaven

Admiral William McRaven, a University of Texas at Austin alumnus, is the sole finalist to become chancellor of the University of Texas System. 

He started as a Longhorn and then became a SEAL.

Now, Admiral William McRaven, a University of Texas at Austin alumnus responsible for the raid that claimed Osama Bin Laden’s life, has been named the sole finalist to become chancellor of the University of Texas System.

(See the statement from the UT System announcing McRaven’s selection.)

As the state’s flagship university, The University of Texas at Austin is part of the University of Texas System.

While a president helms UT Austin, a Board of Regents and a chancellor together govern the overarching UT System, composed of nine academic institutions and six health-care institutions.

Today the Board of Regents unanimously selected McRaven (B.J. ’77) the sole finalist to replace outgoing UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa. Under state law, the board must wait 21 days after naming the sole finalist before making an appointment.

“We were aware that getting Admiral McRaven to consider the UT System position might have presented a challenge, given high demand nationally for his leadership,” Board of Regents Chairman Paul Foster said in a statement from the UT System on Tuesday. “We were honored that he chose the UT System as the most important place where he could continue to serve his nation upon his pending retirement from a most distinguished military career.”

Before McRaven, a Navy SEAL who will turn over leadership of the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and retire from active duty in August, is officially installed as chancellor, here’s a quick look at the leader not every university system could handle.

1) McRaven spearheaded the military raid that led to the death of the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama Bin Laden …

Time magazine speculated, “if the Pulitzer Prize board establishes a new category for killing the world’s most wanted terrorist it’s a safe bet Bill McRaven will win it.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates praised McRaven’s leadership, saying he’s “effectively [taken] the fight to America’s most dangerous and vicious enemies.” Politico published a lengthy profile on McRaven, dubbing him “The Last American Hero.”

2) and he sometimes still goes into the field with his special-ops teams on raids

In 2011 the Washington Post reported that although McRaven is “a three-star* admiral, the muscular 55-year-old still sometimes accompanies his teams on snatch-and-grab missions.” The Post called McRaven “one of the most experienced terrorist hunters in the U.S. government,” but noted the leader “demands high standards” in every endeavor.

(*Editor’s note: McRaven is now a four-star admiral.)

3) McRaven is a powerhouse speaker who doles out unforgettable life advice

In May, McRaven delivered one of the year’s most popular commencement speeches (2 million YouTube views and counting) to The University of Texas at Austin’s Class of 2014. His 10 life lessons to change the world have been praised not only as spot-on advice for recent graduates to follow but also as words by which everyone should live.

4) He answers fan mail (and he can hold his breath for a long time)

Last year, six-year-old Walker Greentree wrote McRaven a letter asking the admiral not only how long he can hold his breath but also who’s quieter, a Navy SEAL or a ninja?

McRaven penned the boy a reply, settling the back-and-forth debate: “Ninjas are probably quieter than SEALs,” he responded. “But we are better swimmers and also better with guns and blowing things up.”

McRaven then answered the second question, “I can hold my breath for a long time, but I try not to unless I really have to.”

McRaven ended his letter to Greentree with two pieces of advice to help the boy achieve his goal of becoming a SEAL someday: “Listen to your parents, and be nice to the other kids. If you do that, then you can probably be a SEAL too.”

5) McRaven served in numerous overseas conflicts

McRaven’s 37-year military career took him overseas and onto the front lines. According to a USSOCOM news release, McRaven is a veteran of Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom as well as other missions.

6) He commanded from every level within special operations

McRaven commanded at every level in special operations during his military service. He also served as director for strategic planning on the National Security Council Staff.

7) He has higher education and curriculum-creation experience

As a student in the Naval Postgraduate School, McRaven helped create and launch the Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict curriculum, a program still in existence today.

The curriculum, according to USSOCOM, is “specifically built around operational art and strategy with an emphasis on the use of special operations.” After overseeing the program’s inception, McRaven became its first graduate.

8) He wrote the book on that

In 1996 McRaven published a book based on the thesis he authored while a student at the Naval Postgraduate School. “Spec Ops” highlights eight special operations from WWII through conflicts in the 1970s, showcasing the principles needed for successful military operations. (The book has a 4.5 star rating out of a possible five on Amazon.)

9) McRaven is a UT Distinguished Alumnus

In 2012 the Texas Exes honored McRaven with a Distinguished Alumnus Award, which is given each year to alumni who embody the spirit of The University of Texas at Austin.

His fellow honorees that year: Laura Bush, former first lady of the United States; Julius Glickman, philanthropist and attorney; Charles Matthews, former vice president and general counsel of Exxon Mobil Corp.; Melinda Perrin, civic leader and former chair of the Hermann Hospital board of trustees; and Dr. Hector Ruiz, partner and managing director of Bull Ventures and ANSI Capital.

10) He started here, and he changed the world

McRaven graduated from UT in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in Middle Eastern studies. He ran track and was a member of ROTC.

Looking at a career like his, it’s easy to see why we say What starts here changes the world.