Updated: Gov. Greg Abbott appoints two new UT System regents, reappoints Steven Hicks

Eleanor Dearman and Julia Brouillette

On his second full day in office Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott appointed two new members to the UT System Board of Regents and reappointed Vice Chairman Steve Hicks for another term.

Abbott’s two new appointees, Sara Martinez Tucker and David Beck, will replace current regents Robert L. Stillwell and Vice Chairman William Eugene Powell if approved by the Texas Senate. Stillwell’s and Powell’s terms are set to expire in February, while Hicks’ will be extended until 2021.

“I am appreciative and happy to help Governor Abbott as he seeks to improve higher education in Texas,” Hicks said in an email to the Texan. “I’m especially excited about UT Austin and assisting their aspirations to be the best public university in the world.”

Sara Martinez Tucker, CEO of the National Math + Science Initiative, served as undersecretary of the Department of Education during the Bush administration and as CEO of the California-based Hispanic Scholarship Fund. Beck is a senior partner at the Beck Redden law firm in Houston. They are both UT alumni — Beck graduated from the UT School of Law, and Martinez Tucker received an undergraduate degree in journalism as well as a Master of Business Administration from the University. Martinez Tucker said she and Beck were instructed not to comment on their appointments.

Seemingly across the board, key players in Texas’ higher education community lined up to praise Abbott’s appointments.

UT System Chancellor William McRaven, who took over from former Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa earlier this month, said he felt strongly supportive of Beck and Martinez Tucker and was excited Hicks was up for reappointment.

“I could not be more pleased with Gov. Abbott’s announcement,” McRaven said. “If confirmed by the Texas Senate, I am confident that these three individuals will serve the University of Texas System with fervor and dedication and contribute their immense talents to making all our institutions even better.”

Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), a member of the Senate Committee on Higher Education, said she also felt enthusiastic about Abbott’s selection.

“These three strong, intelligent, dynamic Texas Exes love UT and undoubtedly will be leaders in the quest for excellence at all UT institutions, especially our flagship,” Zaffirini said in an email to the Texan. “Each brings expertise and experience that will be valuable assets in interacting with the legislature and in understanding that students are our top priority.”

Zaffirini said she is confident all three appointees will be confirmed by the Senate.

“Today is a fine day for Texas and, especially, for the Longhorn Nation,” Zaffirini said. 

Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin), vice chair of the Senate Committee on Higher Education, said he would be pleased to see Hicks return to the Board of Regents. 

“Vice Chairman Steve Hicks has been an excellent leader on the board, and I look forward to continuing our close working relationship,” Watson said.

Watson said he thinks Beck and Martinez Tucker are well-qualified candidates.

“The two new additions … will also be great assets,” Watson said. “I’m impressed by Sara’s background and educational expertise. I’ve known David for 25 years and he’s smart, and thoughtful, and loves UT.”