Bill Powers, president of the University of Texas at Austin from 2006 to 2015 and a member of the law school faculty for more than 40 years, has died. He was 72.
The university said Powers died Sunday in Austin from complications from a fall several months earlier and oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy, a rare adult-onset muscle disorder.
“Bill was an eloquent and fierce champion for UT students, faculty and staff,” current UT President Greg Fenves said.
Powers, the second-longest-serving president in the school’s history, served as dean of the law school for six years. During his time as dean he was the main author of a report that gave federal investigators a road map of the financial skullduggery that fueled the failure of Houston-based Enron Corp., which went bankrupt in December 2001.
Powers had joined Enron’s board to investigate conflicts of interest inherent in transactions between the company and murky partnerships that hid debt, inflated profits and channeled millions of dollars into pockets of former Enron officials. Powers’ 2002 report blistered greedy architects of the partnerships as well as executives, directors and auditors who failed to keep an eye on them.
The university says that while he was president Powers oversaw the successful completion of a $3 billion capital campaign, presided over the completion or construction of 13 major buildings on campus, and established a vice presidency to oversee diversity and community engagement. Also during his time as president, the Dell Medical School was established at UT.
He was born in Los Angeles on May 30, 1946. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, then served for three years in the U.S. Navy. He then graduated from Harvard University Law School. Powers joined the UT law faculty in 1977.
Powers joined the law firm Jackson Walker in August 2015, after stepping down as UT president. The firm’s managing partner, C. Wade Cooper, said they were “blessed” to have his longtime friend as a colleague.
“I never met a smarter or more interesting guy,” Cooper said. “He was a towering intellect in the law, but could also lead a high-level discussion on countless topics outside the law — theology, chemistry, Big 12 politics or the best defensive coverage schemes in the secondary for flag football. He loved sports and he loved competing.”