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 university's School of Law, where he won recognition for recruiting a world-class faculty and attracting highly diverse and talented students.
One of the nation's leading scholars in personal injury and products liability, Powers joined the law school faculty in 1977 and has taught torts, products liability, jurisprudence, legal process, civil procedure, conflict of laws and contracts. In 1997, the university named him to its Academy of Distinguished Teachers. He is a University Distinguished Teaching Professor and holds the Hines H. Baker and Thelma Kelley Baker Chair in Law.
As president of The University of Texas at Austin, Powers has identified four areas of emphasis:
- Building support for higher education throughout Texas
- Elevating the university's academic standing to the best in the nation among public universities
- Recruiting a diverse student body and faculty
- Reforming the undergraduate core curriculum
As dean of the law school, Powers recruited leading law professors from across the country, instituted academic initiatives and built strong relationships with alumni and state lawmakers. His emphasis on diversity at the law school led to the quadrupling of the number of African American students and doubling of the number of Hispanic students. Under his leadership, the law school was recognized by Time magazine as the national leader among schools working to broaden their traditional applicant pool and by Hispanic Business magazine for four consecutive years as the #1 law school in the nation for Hispanics.
A native of Los Angeles, 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.
In addition to teaching at the University of Washington, Powers has held teaching appointments at the Southern Methodist University School of Law and the University of Michigan School of Law. He is the author of dozens of articles on tort law and legal philosophy and of several books, including Cases and Materials in Products Liability (with David Fischer, Michael Green and Joseph Sanders), Cases and Materials in Torts (with David Robertson, David Anderson and Olin Guy Wellborn) and Texas Products Liability Law. He is a member of the American Law Institute, where he was co-reporter for the “Restatement (Third) of Torts: Apportionment of Liability” and is co-reporter for the “Restatement (Third) of Torts: Liability for Physical Harm.”
Powers has worked as a legal consultant with the U.S. Congress, the Brazilian legislature and the Texas legislature. In 2001, he chaired a special investigation committee that examined the financial transactions of Enron Corp. The resulting report, which has come to be known as the “Powers Report,” and his subsequent testimony before Congress, gained national recognition.
Powers was born on May 30, 1946. He is married to Kim Heilbrun, a commercial real estate attorney. He has five children.