William Powers Jr. ’67

Powers has a favorite story that goes like this: A professor fills a vat with rocks and asks his students if it’s full. Yes, they say. He repeats this process with pebbles, sand, and finally water. When asked what the moral is, the students say there’s always room for more. But the professor disagrees. If you want the big rocks to fit, you have to put them in first. As the University of Texas at Austin’s president since 2006, former dean of its law school, and one of the country’s foremost scholars in personal injury and product liability, Powers knows how to keep his eyes on the big rocks. As an administrator, he gets high marks for his efforts to reform the undergraduate curriculum, diversify the faculty and student body, and save public higher education in a state that is eagerly trying to cut it to the bone. As a legal consultant, he chaired the 2001 committee that wrote the now-definitive Powers Report on the ethical and fiscal demise of Enron Corp. The Cal Alumni Association named Powers its 2014 Alumnus of the Year. Reflecting on his time at Berkeley and his UT leadership, Powers said in a California magazine article, “That’s what these great universities do for people. Kids still show up and think they’re the ones who don’t belong. But they do belong. They show up and it changes their lives.”

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