Breaking ground for the Engineering Education and Research Center

EERC Groundbreaking Celebration-16

With, from left, Chancellor Bill McRaven, Student Engineering Council President Anuj Kudva, and Engineering Dean Sharon Wood

Yesterday, I was honored to help break ground for our Engineering Education and Research Center. For many years this major new facility has been the dream of our engineering alumni, industry leaders throughout the state, and three successive deans: Ben Streetman, Greg Fenves, and Sharon Wood. Now it is becoming a reality.

Slated to open in 2017, the EERC will enhance our culture of innovation and transform engineering education with cross-disciplinary teaching and research. It will include:

• 430,000 square feet of open and flexible space for interactive learning and hands-on student projects
• 21st-century teaching and research labs for creating new technologies and solving real-world problems
• State-of-the-art engineering library and cafe, where students will study, collaborate and socialize
• A central location for all engineering student services, such as student life, advising and career assistance
• A new home for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Cockrell School’s largest department

My heartfelt thanks goes to the many donors and leaders who have brought us to this point. The EERC will allow our Cockrell School of Engineering to soar to even greater heights, and that will be good for all of Texas. This remarkable video offers a preview:

What starts here changes the world.
Bill Powers signature

Giving Back to Support the Next Generation in Engineering

President Powers accepts Whaley gift

David Anderson, the executor of Whaley’s estate, and his wife, Ann, and son, Matt (center) with Bill Powers (left) and Dean Sharon Wood (right).

As we enter the final weeks of the Campaign for Texas, I am gratified to see so many friends and alumni giving back to our university. This week we announced a large posthumous gift–$35 million from the late T. W. Whaley, who earned a doctorate in electrical engineering from UT in 1968.

What’s special about this bequest is that it was given with the specific intention of funding scholarships for top Texas students in engineering and science. The endowment, projected to provide $1.6 million in annual merit scholarships and fellowships, increases the Cockrell School of Engineering’s total scholarship and fellowship funding by 25 percent. It will provide substantial scholarship support for 34 Cockrell School students in the first year alone.

Born in Lorena, Texas, in 1935, Whaley was adopted at age 15 by parents who made education a priority. After service in the U.S. Army, he earned two degrees at Texas A&M University before enrolling at UT. His career included aerospace engineering with General Dynamics and employment at the Central Intelligence Agency. In later years he managed a family farm, mineral interests, and investments. A donor to the Cockrell School since 1974, Dr. Whaley died last year.

His generosity will help engineering students on our campus this fall and for generations to come.

Hook ’em!

Bill Powers signature



Greg Fenves to be next UT provost


Last week, Greg Fenves, dean of UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering, accepted my invitation to become UT’s next executive vice president and provost. His appointment is effective Oct. 1. Greg is exactly the right person for the job. He has led initiatives to improve research competitiveness, undergraduate retention and graduation rates, international and entrepreneurship programs, and fundraising for the Engineering Education and Research Center. He has the skills and experience to advance UT in many key areas.

I hired Greg to be dean of the Cockrell School in 2008, and he’s been a true leader. He came to the University from UC-Berkeley, where he served as chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, assistant director at the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, and professor of engineering. He studied at Cornell University and UC-Berkeley. He is an expert in simulating and predicting the effects of earthquakes on human-made structures.

Greg has said his top priorities will include strengthening the connections of our undergraduate students to the knowledge-creating communities in departments and programs, increasing the number of highly ranked graduate programs at UT, recruiting and retaining world-class faculty, and building the Dell Medical School as the leader for 21st century medicine and health care delivery.

His selection resulted from a national search by a committee composed of deans, faculty members, and students and chaired by Professor Martha Hilley.

Greg will succeed current Executive Vice President and Provost Steve Leslie, who has served in that role since 2007 and has done an outstanding job. Steve has been instrumental in the creation of the Dell Medical School, greater strategic planning and budgeting of the academic programs, and developing innovative learning technologies. He will remain on our faculty as special assistant to the president working with community partners involved in the Dell Medical School.

An interim dean for the Cockrell School will be named soon.

Bill's Signature



Playing to Win–on the Court and in the Classroom

Creating a university of the first class is our mission at UT. This week, U.S. News & World Report released new rankings for some of our graduate programs, and I wanted to share the highlights with you.

Our College of Education graduate program is now ranked No. 2 in the nation, tied with Harvard University.  This distinguished rank is the result of more than 20 years of outstanding vision and leadership by Dean Manuel Justiz and his colleagues in the College of Education. UT continues to lead our state in preparing the next generation of outstanding teachers—and the faculty members and leaders who will shape education in the years ahead.

Among the graduate programs that are re-ranked annually, both the Cockrell School of Engineering and the School of Law each moved up in the rankings to number 8 and 14 respectively. You can read more about UT’s rankings on the U.S. News & World Report website.

An academic and athletic ranking also came out this week from Inside Higher Ed. Our men’s basketball team had another outstanding regular season, ranked 8th in the last Associated Press poll.  The Horns begin play in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship on Friday, and Inside Higher Ed has created an “Academic Performance Tournament,” advancing the 68 NCAA tournament teams through the tournament bracket based on each team’s academic progress and graduation success rates.

According to the academic performance “bracketology,” UT made it all the way to the finals! You can see the entire Inside Higher Ed “tournament” at

Hook ‘em!

Bill's Signature