Former University president Peter Flawn passes away

Former UT president Peter T. Flawn left a legacy of excellence and academic rigor at the University when he passed away overnight Sunday at age 91.

In a University press release, UT president Gregory Fenves said Flawn was a visionary leader, beloved friend and wise counselor to him and many other University presidents.  

"Whenever the university sought his help — from his earliest days doing geology research in West Texas through his time as president emeritus — (Flawn) always answered the call,” Fenves said. “His contributions to our great university were immense and we will miss him deeply."

Flawn was born in 1926 and studied at Oberlin College before receiving his doctorate in geology at Yale University. In 1949, he began his work at UT’s Bureau of Economic Geology, and from 1960 to 1970, Flawn was director of the bureau and a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences.

Flawn served as the second president of UT San Antonio from 1973 to 1977 and president of UT Austin from 1979 to 1985, when he declared a “war on mediocrity,” according to the press release. The University’s number of faculty endowments increased from 112 to 851 in the early 1980s, and five new research buildings were built on campus during his time as president. In 1985 when Flawn retired, the Academic Center was renamed the Peter T. Flawn Academic Center.

“When one looks back at the intellectual giants that led The University of Texas, Peter Flawn's name will be right at the top of the list,” UT System chancellor William McRaven said. “Peter was a special person and over the last two years, I developed a deep respect, admiration, and friendship with this wonderful man. He dedicated his life to educating the young men and women at UT Austin, UT San Antonio and throughout the state of Texas. We will miss him dearly.”

Flawn was also a distinguished geologist, and he served as president of the Geological Society of America in 1978 and president of the American Geosciences Institute in 1988.

Sharon Mosher, dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences, said in a University press release Flawn’s field maps and publications on West Texas geology were an essential source for generations of students.

“Peter Flawn was inspiring as both a geologist and an academic leader,” Mosher said. “… And as president, his push for excellence at UT made a deep impression on me and many professors in the 1980s, leading to profound and positive changes in the University.”

According to the press release, Flawn was predeceased by his wife, Priscilla Pond Flawn, in 2016 and a daughter, Laura B. Flawn, in 2001.