President Bill Powers was the second-longest serving president in UT history when he stepped down in 2015. He joined the university in 1977 as a professor in the School of Law and would later become its dean, rising to national prominence when he was appointed to investigate the collapse of energy giant Enron.
As president, Powers presided over a reform of the undergraduate curriculum, instating mandatory Signature Courses for all freshmen and even teaching a signature philosophy course titled “What Makes the World Intelligible.” He founded two schools: the School of Undergraduate Studies and the Dell Medical School. He launched and finished the Campaign for Texas, an eight-year fundraising effort that raised $3.1 billion. Under Powers, the campus completed or began construction on 13 major new buildings. The final four years of the Powers administration was a period of controversy over how productivity should be defined. Supported by alumni, faculty, students, staff and the Texas Legislature, Powers defended the research university mission and was elected chair of the Association of American Universities in 2013. Other achievements include the launch of the ESPN-owned Longhorn Network, which will provide $300 million to the campus over 20 years, much of that endowing faculty chairs.
Powers passed away in 2019. The Student Activity Center, which was built during his administration, was renamed the William C. Powers, Jr. Student Activity Center in his honor.