UT System Board of Regents names first CEO of University Lands Office

Josh Willis

The UT System Board of Regents authorized Mark Houser to become the CEO of the University Lands Office on Tuesday.

Houser, president and CEO of EV Energy Partners, LP and executive vice president and chief operating officer of EnerVest, Ltd, will be the first person named to the CEO position. The position was created “as part of a long-term plan to better manage and protect university lands,” according to a UT System press release.

The University Lands comprise 2.1 million acres of land in West Texas that the Texas Constitution in 1876 to provide support for higher education granted to UT and Texas A&M to provide support for higher education. The revenue from leases for gas and oil on the land have contributed to the Permanent University Fund, which is worth $17.5 billion today.

Jeff Hildebrand, Board of Regents member and CEO of Hilcorp Energy Company, an independent oil and gas exploration company, said the changes in the way oil is extracted in the energy industry has led to the need for increased leadership.

“The dynamic of University Lands has changed, and our management philosophy should change accordingly,” Hildebrand said. “We need a leader and expert in the field to ensure we are managing the land efficiently and getting the most value from University Lands for the benefit of UT and A&M students for generations to come.”

A group made up of informal advisory experts and an energy management consulting firm called Opportune, hired by the UT System, made recommendations in 2013 about additional staff for the University Lands office. The recommendations were meant to improve the functionality of the office.

“We expect a significant return on an investment in leadership and additional staff in the University Lands Office, and that return will directly benefit UT and A&M institutions,” said Scott Kelley, executive vice chancellor for business affairs at the UT System.

Houser will be stepping down from his position at EV Energy Partners at the end of February.