Reliably Austin
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Streaming troubles? We've made changes. Please click here on for more information.

Former UT Austin President William Powers Dies At 72

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
Then-UT Austin President William Powers visits KUT in 2014.

Former UT Austin President William Powers Jr. died Sunday from complications after a fall in September. According to a press release from the university, Powers had oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy, a rare adult-onset muscle disorder. He was 72.

In addition to serving as the university's 28th president from 2006 to 2015, he was a professor at the School of Law. He also served as dean of the school from 2000-2005. He was teaching at the school when he fell outside the main building and was hospitalized last fall. 

“Bill was an eloquent and fierce champion for UT students, faculty and staff. Never was this more evident than in the early and mid-2010s, when Bill put every ounce of himself into defending the soul of our university,” UT President Gregory L. Fenves, who succeeded Powers, said in a statement. “For 40 years on these Forty Acres, Bill Powers embodied the UT motto, ‘What starts here changes the world.’ He lived those words. But even more importantly, he made sure legions of other Longhorns did too. We’ll miss him dearly.”

While president, Powers pushed diversity efforts and defended the use of ethnicity as a factor in college admissions. He established the School of Undergraduate Studies and played a key role in creating the Dell Medical School.

Powers' latter years as president were mired in controversy. A public spat with the UT Board of Regents and some Texas lawmakers spurred a yearslong battle that, at one point, nearly ended in Powers' firing.

The university said a public memorial service would be held at a later date.

This post has been updated.