tillerson-eerc-gift

From left : Provost Greg Fenves and his wife, Carmel; Cockrell School interim Dean Sharon Wood; Renda and Rex Tillerson; and my wife, Kim Heilbrun, and me

Distinguished Alumnus Rex Tillerson and his wife, Renda, have pledged $5 million to help build the Engineering Education and Research Center. Rex is chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil.

Rex and Renda have been loyal friends of the University, and I’m grateful for this generous gift in support of the research, teaching and collaboration that will thrive in the EERC. Their commitment demonstrates a strong belief in our ability to educate and develop engineering leaders who will change the world.

When completed in 2017, the EERC will house advanced teaching, research, and student project spaces that will foster collaboration among students and researchers in the Cockrell School’s seven departments and across the UT campus.

Rex earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering here in 1975, and his sons, Robert and Michael, are graduates of the Cockrell School as well. He’s a member of the school’s Engineering Advisory Board and of the UT Development Board. Beginning with his first gift in 1978, Rex has been a devoted supporter of many parts of the University.

The Tillersons’ gift moves us closer to crossing the $3 billion goal line of the Campaign for Texas. Our total now stands at $2,835,369,779. Thank you, Rex and Renda!

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In November, I told you about the opening of a new center of teaching and research on our campus — the Clements Center for History, Strategy, and Statecraft. Named for late Gov. William P. Clements Jr. and supported by a founding gift from George Seay and family, the Clements Center is already making its mark on UT and the world.

To reach its four primary constituencies — students, scholars, policy-makers, and citizens — the center has organized itself around three activities:

  • Teaching. The center’s teaching imparts a body of knowledge to students, develops their critical thinking skills, and cultivates the values necessary for leadership in a free society.
  • Research and Publication. The center is disseminating the findings of its researchers through both scholarly and popular publications. Subject matter experts at the Clements Center like director Will Imboden have placed op-eds in the New York Times and other national media on topics ranging from the crisis in the Ukraine to international terrorism.
  • Convening. The convening power of the Clements Center is creating a network of scholars and practitioners. Its brisk schedule of events has already brought numerous intellectuals to the campus, such as author Tom Ricks, who spoke in March about his book The Generals: American Military Command from WWII to Today. Among the many upcoming events is David Adesnik’s April 16 lecture, “Isolationism: Policies of the Past and Lessons for Today.”

I’m proud of the progress the Clements Center has made and look forward to what the coming years will hold.

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Visiting with Camp Texas leaders helping with our 40-hour fundraiser

 

Last week, we set a goal of raising $40,000 in 40 hours for UT Austin. I’m happy to report that at the end of 40 hours, students and alumni had joined together to more than triple our goal, raising $128,516. Supported by social media and other channels, this was the most successful web-based fundraiser we have ever had.

On Friday, during the 40-hour campaign, I visited Gregory Gym to check the progress. There I met dozens of students from groups like Texas Blazers, Umoja, and Camp Texas who were raising money for UT and promoting their groups.

I’m so proud of our students and all of our alumni and friends who participated in this first-of-its-kind fundraiser. If you missed the event and would still like to give please visit this page.

What starts here changes the world.

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Next week, the eyes of America will be trained on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. To mark the 50th anniversary of the movement that culminated in Civil Rights Act of 1964, the LBJ Presidential Library will host a three-day civil rights summit April 8-10. The Civil Rights Summit will bring more high-profile visitors to The University of Texas campus than any event in memory. President Obama will address the gathering as will three former presidents — President Carter, President Clinton, and President George W. Bush.

The three days of panel discussions, speakers, and performances will feature not only civil rights pioneers such as John Lewis, Andrew Young, and Vernon Jordan but giants of our culture like Mavis Staples, Graham Nash, Jim Brown, Bill Russell, and Billie Jean King. Authors, historians, and journalists like Bob Schieffer, Maria Shriver, and Tina Brown will join politicians, opinion leaders, and our many alumni and faculty who had connections to the Johnson Administration to discuss President Johnson’s legacy and the current state of civil rights in America.

I’m proud that our campus will be the center of such an important conversation, recognizing a son of Texas who helped to elevate civil rights to the highest rank of our national priorities.

And I congratulate Mark Updegrove, director of the LBJ Presidential Library, on this truly impressive undertaking. The summit will be live-streamed at: http://www.civilrightssummit.org/updates/#live

What starts here will change the world.

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There are many paths to a bachelor’s degree at UT, but one of the most satisfying surely is our Jefferson Scholars Program. This program sharpens students by making them grapple with the greatest thinkers in history. In the spirit of its namesake, students study the concept of liberty, learn what makes leaders great, and contemplate the meaning of life at the deepest levels.

The program is a six-course integrated sequence in great books and ideas of the ancient, medieval, and modern worlds. It features extensive discussion and writing and fulfills six core requirements. Jefferson Scholars study the classics of political and social thought, the Bible and its interpreters, and notions of freedom from antiquity through the American Revolution. They also study the U.S. Constitution and masterworks of world drama. Students who complete the sequence earn the Certificate in Core Texts and Ideas.

This program lays an outstanding foundation for lifelong learning and represents the university experience at its best. I congratulate co-directors Lorraine and Tom Pangle for integrating this important center into the life of the University.

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March 21, 2014

Honoring Our Best

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Thursday night, I had the privilege of saying “thank you” on behalf of the whole University family to some of our top faculty and staff for the work that they do every day.

Two faculty members received the Civitatis Award, given each year to reward service to the University above and beyond the regular expectations of teaching, research, and writing:

  • Larry Abraham, associate dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies, whose work focuses on enriching the undergraduate curriculum across the University and who also is a professor of kinesiology and health education.
  • Pat Davis, a professor and senior associate dean in the College of Pharmacy, who is admired across our campus for being a leader in advancing teaching innovation and the use of instructional technology.

The Arno Nowotny Medal, which goes each year to a staff member of the Division of Student Affairs who follows the late Dean Nowotny’s example, was awarded to:

  • Tany Norwood, the retired longtime pillar of the Office of the Dean of Students.

The President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Award went to these eight outstanding professors who exemplify the University’s commitment to excellence in undergraduate education:

  • Andrew D. Ellington, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Leanne Heath Field, Biology and Public Health
  • Cynthia A. LaBrake, Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • Brad Love, Advertising and Public Relations
  • Karl Hagstrom Miller, American History
  • Elizabeth M. Richmond-Garza, Humanities and Comparative Literature
  • Hector D. Ruvalcaba, Mexican Literature and Culture
  • Lori K. Holleran Steiker, Social Work

We should all take great pride in the quality of faculty and staff these honorees represent.

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Robert Strauss

Ambassador Robert Strauss, who died Wednesday in Washington, D.C., at the age of 95, was one of the most influential figures of the past half-century on the world stage. His stature and successes were rooted in Texas, and he has been vital in UT Austin’s growth as a global research university.

As a Distinguished Alumnus, thought leader, and philanthropist, he supported and elevated programs across the University. And our Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law has brought together the best minds in academia, government, and the private sector to find solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. The UT family will miss Bob greatly, but his legacy will serve our students, our nation, and our world for generations to come.

What starts here changes the world.

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Hinojosa-Smith, Rolando 2010

 

For nearly 30 years, Rolando Hinojosa-Smith has been a treasure of the UT Austin faculty. Last week, the longtime English faculty member and author received the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award in New York from the National Book Critics Circle. The annual award goes to an individual or institution that has made a significant and lasting contribution to American letters.

Born in the Rio Grande Valley in 1929, Rolando has devoted his career to capturing the essence of South Texas while telling compelling stories. Perhaps his best-known work is the Klail City Death Trip series, which now stands at 15 volumes and tells the story of multiple generations of Anglos and Mexicans.

From the late Américo Paredes to Rolando to novelist and English faculty member Oscar Casares, UT faculty members have left an indelible mark on the literature of the Texas border and the Mexican-American experience.

Rolando, we are all immensely proud of your achievements. This is a fitting honor. Congratulations!

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Photo by Marsha Miller/UT Austin

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In 2012, I asked a group of 13 alumni and business leaders to examine UT’s administrative structure and operations with the goal of increasing our business productivity. They made their recommendations in January 2013. Since then, under Vice President Kevin Hegarty’s leadership, we have done an extensive study of the feasibility of those recommendations and gotten valuable input from the campus.

One major recommendation of the committee was to consolidate certain administrative functions across campus to be more efficient — a model known as “shared services.” We formed a steering committee composed of UT deans, staff, faculty, and students to examine this idea. Today, I present the Shared Services Steering Committee’s recommendations, viewable here.

The Steering Committee has proposed that over the next year shared services be piloted by select volunteer units. I am currently reviewing these recommendations.

Sharing services is not new to our campus. Pockets of shared services already exist in the College of Liberal Arts, McCombs School of Business, Information Technology Services, and the Central Business Office, which currently provides services for my office. So in addition to the pilot programs, we also will undertake a detailed study of these existing structures and how they are performing.

Change is never easy, but I believe we must share services across the campus for three reasons: to improve service, to improve career paths for our staff, and to reduce costs, allowing us to better serve our core missions of teaching and research.

I thank Vice President Hegarty and the Steering Committee for their thoughtful work.

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It’s a great time to be part of the UT Austin family.

Yesterday, on Texas Independence Day, we crossed another milestone in the Campaign for Texas, when our total giving surpassed $2.75 billion. More than 257,000 alumni, friends, foundations and corporations have given during this capital campaign. If you are among them, thank you! If you haven’t given yet, you can still help us make history and achieve our goal of $3 billion by August 31.

Your contributions are already hard at work. One exciting example is UT Austin’s new Dell Medical School. Because of your generosity, we are breaking ground for the medical school on April 21. And your donations help in thousands of other ways, such as scholarships for deserving students, faculty chairs in critical areas of study, and support of crucial programs across the University that will shape the future of our state and world.

Every gift, large or small, counts. Estate gifts (and letting us know about them) are especially important. And it just might be yours that propels UT across the finish line. Please give today. http://giving.utexas.edu/

What starts here changes the world.

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