Fenves inaugurated as 29th UT president, gives his first State of the University address

Matthew Adams

Students, faculty and other community members gathered Thursday afternoon at Bass Concert Hall for UT President Gregory Fenves’ inauguration and State of the University address.

In his speech, Fenves addressed a wide range of topics, from making sure the University is a first-class institution to the endless research opportunities at a place like Texas.

“The challenges facing our world are large,” Fenves said. “The issues confronting society are complex. And the stakes are high. Universities are the incubators where we assemble the most talented people to solve the biggest problems.”

Some of these examples included more integration of research and education opportunities among departments, along with the opening of the Dell Medical School. 

University spokesman Gary Susswein said about 1,800 people attended the event, which cost over $28,000 to put together. Susswein said the money came from private donations and neither tax dollars nor tuition money was involved.

After three months in office, Fenves became the 29th UT president following the nine-year tenure of William Powers Jr.  

“These first three months as president have been memorable,” Fenves said, followed by some chuckles from the crowd. “Especially for the great working relationship and friendship I have developed with Chancellor [William] McRaven. The chancellor’s support of UT, along with that of the regents, has brought great energy to the campus and to our alumni.”

During his tenure so far, Fenves has approved the sale of alcohol at UT Athletics events, formed a working group to create solutions for campus carry and removed the Jefferson Davis and Woodrow Wilson statues. 

Student Government President Xavier Rotnosfky presented a Medallion of Office to President Fenves. Along with the medallion, Fenves was awarded an honorary UT class ring and the presidential regalia.

Rotnofsky worked with Fenves during the statue removals and now on campus carry, and looks forward to the future with Fenves.  

“I think he’s a good kid who has a bright future ahead of him,” Rotnofsky said.

In his speech, McRaven said Fenves’ character makes him especially suited to the position
of president.

“A college president’s near presence should inspire all good in our life’s existence," McRaven said. “Such a man, and such a man only is the right one for the greatest of
all callings.”

Fenves said in the fall of 2014, a quarter of UT’s undergraduates became the first in their family to attend college. UT can provide students the opportunity to exceed what their parents earn, Fenves said. 

Going forward, Fenves said he sees a future where people are more appreciative of UT’s role in higher education.

“You don’t have to attend UT to believe in the power of UT,” Fenves said. “All Texans benefit from the University of Texas. Some may question the cost of higher education, but no one should question its benefits. A public research university can’t only be calculated in dollars. Its costs need to be measured yes, but its impact is also evident in lives transformed, ideas developed and new discoveries made.”