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William Powers, Jr. is the 28th president of The University of Texas at Austin. Before taking office on February 1, 2006, he served as dean of the UT Law School, where he won recognition for recruiting a world-class faculty and attracting highly diverse and talented students.
A native of Los Angeles, Bill Powers received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 1967. After graduating, he joined the U.S. Navy and was stationed on Bahrain Island in the Persian Gulf. Following his military service, he attended Harvard Law School, where he became managing editor of the Harvard Law Review and graduated magna cum laude in 1973. He taught at the University of Washington Law School before coming to The University of Texas at Austin in 1977.
Powers is married to Kim Heilbrun, a commercial real estate attorney. He has five children.
This is a close-up photo of my teak desk. I brought it with me from the Law School. Kim and I found it at an antiques store in Austin. We believe it’s from colonial Indonesia, most likely the desk of some mid-level bureaucrat. I appreciate all its scratches and scars, and I’ve contributed my share.
I grew up in California, studied chemistry at Berkeley, served in the Persian Gulf in the Navy, and went to law school at Harvard. But within a month of arriving in Texas in 1977, I was a Texan at heart. These boots were a gift from the UT Law faculty when I stepped down as dean to become president in 2006.
Crossword puzzles are a hobby. I especially enjoy The New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle. If you’re interested in crossword puzzles, I highly recommend the movie, Wordplay.
Books have been very important to my life and my career. I teach a freshman seminar called “What Makes the World Intelligible?” The goal of the course is to show students that they interpret the world through the lenses of different belief systems. The reading list includes: Hamlet, Oedipus Rex, Plato’s The Republic, The Divine Comedy, the Book of Job, the Book of Genesis, Steven Weinberg’s On a Piece of Chalk, and John Donne’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions.
Golf is a metaphor for ethics. Once you kick your ball out of the rough when no one is looking, you’ve started down a path that renders your score, and your integrity, meaningless. At Enron, people started by kicking the ball out of the rough. Then they shaved off a stroke here and there. Pretty soon, their accounting practices—and ethics—were meaningless.
Golf gets me outdoors with good friends. It requires enough concentration so that by the second hole, I’ve left my worries behind.