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Bill Powers: His Last Year as President, Unprecedented Fundraising and UT's Future

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
UT President Bill Powers visits Texas Standard.

Bill Powers says he's entering his final year as president of the UT-Austin without bitterness, despite the tumultuous lead up to the announcement of his exit.

Instead, he says he relishes his return to faculty – Powers will return to teach at the UT Law School when he steps down next June – and believes the university is making the right moves at the right time amid transition.

Texas Standard host David Brown spoke with Powers about the UT Dell Medical School, the hiring of Adm. William McRaven to replace Francisco Cigarroa as the new UT System chancellor and the beginning of the end of his tenure at the helm of the university.

Powers admits the beginning of the fall semester is always exciting. This semester's beginning was punctuated by the Dell Medical School's recent $50 million contribution fromthe Livestrong Foundation to establish the Livestrong Cancer Institutes, which helped him push the university's nearly decade-long fundraising effort past its $3 billion goal.

Powers says the medical school seeks to establish Austin as a center for world-class cancer care, and move out from under the shadow of Houston’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

“Our goal is to improve both discovery, but mainly the cancer care in Central Texas," Powers says. "So people don’t have to leave Central Texas to get the kind of care they get at M.D. Anderson."

Many consider Powers’ the institute, and his ability to raise money for the university, to be a principal trait of his tenure.

While Powers’ time may be drawing to a close, Adm. William McRaven’s tenure at UT has yet to begin. McRaven was one of the leading figures behind the Osama Bin Laden raid, and – with an annual salary of $1.2 million – will be one of the highest paid public university system leaders

Powers says McRaven is worth the money.

“This is a $12 or $13 billion budget at the UT System,” he says. “Getting the right person in that job is important.”

As for his own replacement, Powers says there is plenty of talent already at the university to choose from, the university appointed a panel to elect his replacement on Monday. He acknowledges the dissonance among UT leaders that precipitated his own exit, but says the university will move past this transitional period.

“The main thing we do is get students to think creatively, communicate, be innovative, and be lifelong learners,” he says

David entered radio journalism thanks to a love of storytelling, an obsession with news, and a desire to keep his hair long and play in rock bands. An inveterate political junkie with a passion for pop culture and the romance of radio, David has reported from bases in Washington, London, Los Angeles, and Boston for Monitor Radio and for NPR, and has anchored in-depth public radio documentaries from India, Brazil, and points across the United States and Europe. He is, perhaps, known most widely for his work as host of public radio's Marketplace. Fulfilling a lifelong dream of moving to Texas full-time in 2005, Brown joined the staff of KUT, launching the award-winning cultural journalism unit "Texas Music Matters."