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UT News

Student Activity Center Renamed for Former UT President Bill Powers

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Bill Powers, former president of UT Austin, in his office.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Student Activity Center at The University of Texas at Austin will be renamed the William C. Powers, Jr. Student Activity Center, after the late 28th president of UT Austin.  The renaming was unanimously approved by the UT System Board of Regents.

Powers, who passed away in March, was president of the university from 2006 to 2015. He was a member of the School of Law faculty for over 40 years, including six as dean. A beloved teacher and nationally recognized legal scholar, Powers fiercely defended the university’s mission as a public research university throughout his career.

“Throughout his four decades on the Forty Acres, Bill was first and foremost a teacher and our students were always his highest priority,” said President Gregory L. Fenves. “So, there could be no greater tribute than to name the Student Activity Center at UT Austin for Bill, and to have thousands of students each year pass through the halls of the Powers Student Activity Center. It is a testament to his life and legacy.”

As the second-longest-serving president in UT’s history, Powers argued for the merits of diversity in higher education at the U.S. Supreme Court. Under his leadership, the university established two of its 18 colleges and added 13 new buildings to campus, including the 149,000-square-foot Student Activity Center in 2010.

The Student Activity Center was built as a result of decades of student lobbying for another dedicated campus social center, beginning in the early 1950s. During Powers’ first year as president in 2006, plans were approved when the student body voted to increase student fees to help fund the new activity center —one of the most impactful student referendums in university history.

Since its opening, the Student Activity Center has served as a central hub for students on campus, with space to meet, collaborate and connect as well as the student government legislative assembly room.

Powers’ commitment to student life and success was evident throughout his four decades at UT, and as president, he was focused on the undergraduate curriculum. He established the School of Undergraduate Studies and instituted signature courses as a requirement for undergraduates. He taught one of the courses himself, a philosophy course called What Makes the World Intelligible, and he continued to teach classes throughout his term as president.

In 2011, Powers set a goal to improve the university’s four-year graduation rate from about 50% to 70%. In 2018, that rate had risen to 69.8%.

After stepping down as president in 2015, Powers returned to the law school to teach. A year later, the Texas Exes alumni group honored him with a Distinguished Service Award.

A formal dedication ceremony will be held on campus this fall. More information will be made public when available.