Willie Nelson display now in North End Zone


Don Carleton, Willie Nelson, and Bill Powers. (Photo by Brian Birzer)

Last week it was my honor to welcome back to campus the legendary Willie Nelson, who recently made a generous gift to the University that includes numerous pieces of memorabilia from throughout his career. Next time you are in DRK-Memorial Stadium, come through the North End Zone and visit the display.

This exhibit came about as the result of a friendship between Joe Jamail and Willie Nelson, who became friends because of a mutual friend, Darrell Royal. So this place really is the nexus of those three Texas legends. I want to thank the Jamail family, which supported the display with a grant from the Jamail Foundation, and to congratulate Briscoe Center for American History and Director Don Carleton, who was responsible for the acquisition and the display design.

Among the most powerful objects are the gifts that have been given to Willie by others: a head dress given to him by Native Americans; a Purple Heart given to him by the veteran who earned it, just because Willie’s music had touched him so much; a helmet from one of the firefighters who died in the West, Texas, fertilizer explosion. These gifts and others testify to the life of a truly special human being. I’m proud he will be celebrated in this space.

Hook ’em!
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Thank you, veterans.


Today, as a nation, we honor our military veterans and their families for the sacrifices they have made, both in peacetime and in war. On behalf of the whole UT Austin family, I salute all veterans and especially those who are students, faculty, staff, and alumni of UT. Additionally, I’m proud that UT has been ranked No. 3 in the nation for veterans seeking a solid return on their educational investment, according to Best Value Schools.

Again, UT salutes you, and I salute you. What starts here changes the world.

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A Texas-size Thank You


Yesterday, the University said thank you to everyone who helped support this great institution through their generous donations. As I reflect on the success of the Campaign for Texas and the $3.12 billion it raised, I think about the nearly 272,000 students, alumni, and friends who had the faith in this university’s vision to make a gift. I want to share my gratitude with each and every one of you. Thank you.

Please visit this website that tells the story of the campaign and includes a special thank you video you won’t want to miss.

Hook ’em Horns!

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UT takes leading role on major potential energy source, methane hydrate

I want to share with you a very important development. UT Austin recently received a research grant of $58 million to head a team studying methane hydrate, a substance found in abundance beneath the ocean floor and under Arctic permafrost. The U.S. Department of Energy is providing more than $41 million, with the remainder coming from industry and research partners. The fact that this is one of the largest research grants in the University’s history is certainly noteworthy, but the real excitement comes from the potential developments from the study itself.

Methane hydrate is an ice-like solid compound that forms in low-temperature and high-pressure environments where molecules of methane, a chief constituent of natural gas, are trapped within a lattice structure of water molecules. The worldwide energy implications are huge: within the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, where the team will be sampling, there is estimated to be 7,000 trillion cubic feet of methane hydrate, more than 250 times the amount of natural gas used in the United States in 2013. You can read more here.

I’m proud of our scientists at the Institute for Geophysics in the Jackson School of Geosciences for their leadership.

What starts here changes the world.
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Academy of Distinguished Teachers welcomes new members

Academy of Distinguished Teachers


Academy of Distinguished Teachers

 (From left) Sam Gosling, President Powers, Beth Pomeroy, Doug Bruster, and Oguzhan Bayrak. Not pictured are Peter Stone and John Stanton.

On Wednesday, UT’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers inducted six new members. I’d like to share a little bit about each of this year’s inductees:

  • Oguzhan Bayrak is director of the Ferguson Structural Engineering Laboratory and holds the Charles Elmer Rowe Fellowship in Engineering. He studies behavior, analysis, and design of reinforced and pre-stressed concrete structures, bridge engineering, evaluation of structures in distress, structural repair, fiber-reinforced polymers, and earthquake engineering.
  • Douglas Bruster, the Moody C. Boatwright Regents Professor, is a Shakespeare specialist who also studies modern playwrights like David Mamet and David Hare. His books on Shakespeare and early modern drama include Drama and the Market in the Age of Shakespeare, Quoting Shakespeare, Shakespeare and the Question of Culture, Prologues to Shakespeare’s Theatre, To Be or Not To Be and Shakespeare and the Power of Performance. He taught at Harvard, the University of Chicago, and the University of Paris before coming to UT Austin.
  • Samuel Gosling is a personality/social psychologist who researches how people select and craft the environments in which they dwell to suit their personalities; personality or temperament in non-human animals; and online data-collection methods in the behavioral sciences. His research frequently appears in the national and international media.
  • Elizabeth Pomeroy is the Bert Kruger Smith Centennial Professor in Social Work and coordinator of our Clinical Social Work Concentration. Her interests include mental health, health and children and families; HIV/AIDS interventions; crime victims; interventions for offenders in the criminal justice system; and clinical social work group interventions for children, adults, and families.
  • John Stanton is our George W. Watt Centennial Professor. His research group works in the area of theoretical chemistry. He focuses on developing new theoretical methods and implementing them in computationally efficient computer programs, and applying these and other methods to the solution of interesting chemical and spectroscopic problems.
  • Peter Stone is the David Burton Jr. Centennial Professor and founder and director of the Learning Agents Research Group within the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in the Department of Computer Science. His application domains have included robot soccer, autonomous bidding agents, autonomous vehicles, autonomic computing, and social agents.

Members of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers are the best of the best. I’m extremely proud of these six and all of our current members.

What starts here changes the world.

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National Academy of Engineering welcomes four UT faculty


NationalEngineersNew inductees clockwise from top-left, Thomas Edgar, Greg Fenves, Yale Patt, and Bob Schutz. With them are, left, C.D.  Mote Jr., President, National Academy of Engineering, and right, Charles O. Holliday Jr., Chairman, National Academy of Engineering.

Last week, four professors from UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering traveled to Washington, D.C., for their induction into the National Academy of Engineering. UT Austin had the most new members of any university this year. The academy inducted 67 new members and 11 foreign associates. I’m especially proud that among them is our executive vice president and provost, Greg Fenves. They are:

  • Thomas Edgar, director of the Energy Institute at UT Austin and the George T. and Gladys H. Abell Chair in Engineering, who is recognized for contributions to mathematical modeling, optimization and automatic control of chemical and microelectronics processes, and for professional leadership.
  • Greg Fenves, executive vice president and provost of UT Austin, who is recognized for contributions to computational modeling, creation of open-source software for earthquake engineering analysis, and for academic leadership. Prior to becoming provost, Fenves served as the eighth dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering.
  • Yale Patt, the Ernest Cockrell Jr. Centennial Chair in Engineering in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who was elected for contributions to high-performance microprocessor architecture.
  • Bob Schutz, the Joe J. King Chair of Engineering in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, who was elected for his contribution to the use of satellite laser ranging and GPS tracking to study Earth system dynamics.

Provost Fenves and Professors Edgar, Patt, and Schutz make us all proud.

Hook ’em!

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