David Beck

Editor’s note: This is the second story in a two-part series on the two new UT System Board of Regents. A profile on Sara Martinez Tucker ran Wednesday and is available online. 

UT System Regent David Beck will sit on the Board of Regents for the first time Friday.

Beck, a partner at the Beck Redden law firm in Houston, has held multiple leadership roles throughout his career, including president of the State Bar of Texas, International Association of Defense Counsel and American College of Trial Lawyers. Beck graduated from the UT School of Law and served as the president of the Law School Foundation. 

Beck Redden partner Alistair Dawson said Beck is well-recognized by his colleagues for his leadership qualities. 

“Just about every organization in which [Beck] is involved recognizes his leadership skills and asks him to take a leadership role, which he does routinely,” Dawson said.

Beck earned his bachelor’s degree from Lamar University before getting his law degree from UT in 1965. In a video the Texas Exes created in 2010, Beck said his years of studying at UT were crucial in helping him advance his career.

“Frankly, the most interesting part of Austin was being thrown together with a lot of kids from different backgrounds, seeing everyone one of which was very, very smart,” Beck said. “To me, that really made me realize how competitive life was.”

Dawson said Beck and his wife, Judy Beck, are passionate about education.

“David and Judy [Beck] have been big supporters of education at his alma maters, Lamar University and the University of Texas School of Law,” Dawson said. “They have funded several scholarships at each institution to help students achieve their goals.”

Beck said he shaped his career around striving to better society through helping individuals as a lawyer.

“That’s really part of your obligation as a lawyer, that you have got to make your community better — you have got to make your profession better,” Beck said in the video. “I’ve always believed that.”

In the video, Beck said his law professors at UT taught him how to fight for the rights of other people.

“I enjoy what I do so much that I can’t believe they pay us to do this kind of work,” Beck said. “Without the University of Texas law school, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today.”

According to the video, Beck became known for his ability to connect to those around him — most notably, to juries.

“David’s courtroom skills and confidence grew in the 25-plus years he spent with [the Fulbright & Jaworski law firm], and his ability to connect with a jury became legendary,” the video said.

Beck said working to win a jury’s trust influenced other aspects of his life.

“I try to stake out the moral high ground because jurors invariably want to do what’s right,” Beck said.

Gov. Greg Abbott reappointed Vice Chairman Steve Hicks. Abbott also appointed UT alumni Sara Martinez Tucker and David Beck as new regents, pending Senate approval.

Photo Credit: Joe Capraro | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas Senate confirmed Wednesday Gov. Greg Abbott’s three appointees to the UT System Board of Regents.

The Senate unanimously approved Sara Martinez Tucker, CEO of the National Math and Science Initiative. 

Current Regent Steve Hicks was confirmed by a vote of 28–2. Sens. Bob Hall (R-Canton) and Konni Burton (R-Colleyville) voted against Hicks.

Senators also approved David Beck, a partner at the Beck and Redden law firm in Houston, by a vote of 27–3. Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) voted with Hall and Burton against Beck’s nomination.

In order to take their places on the board, the nominees must be sworn in as regents, according to UT System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo. 

Last week, the Senate Nominations Committee approved the appointees and sent them before the Senate for a vote. The committee unanimously approved Martinez Tucker, while both Hicks and Beck were approved by 6–1 votes. In the committee, Burton voted against both Hicks and Beck.

In light of investigations into UT admissions and the UT School of Law’s forgivable loan program, Burton said Beck, the president of the UT Law School Foundation from 2002–2006, and Hicks have contributed to a lack of transparency. 

“[Hicks and Beck] have presided over a period of secrecy, privilege and sharp rises in tuition at the University of Texas,” Burton said in a statement. “The University of Texas is in need of a fresh start, with Regents concerned first and foremost with improving the strength of the University, getting tuition under control, and ensuring an admissions process that rewards the brightest students and not those with connections.”

The Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education issued a statement in support of the confirmation.

“These regents will help Chancellor McRaven advance the UT System past detrimental and unnecessary conflict and controversy, and toward a future focused on creating and sustaining excellence in higher education across the System’s academic and medical campuses,” the statement said.

Martinez Tucker and Beck are replacing current Regent Robert L. Stillwell and Vice Chairman William Eugene Powell on the board. Hicks’ term has been extended until 2021.

Gov. Greg Abbott reappointed Vice Chairman Steve Hicks. Abbott also appointed UT alumni Sara Martinez Tucker and David Beck as new regents, pending Senate approval.

Photo Credit: Joe Capraro | Daily Texan Staff

The Senate Committee on Nominations approved three candidates for appointment to the UT System Board of Regents on Thursday.

The appointees — David Beck, Steve Hicks and Sara Martinez Tucker — must now go before the Texas Senate for a vote in order to take their positions on the board. Martinez Tucker was approved unanimously, while the committee approved both Steve Hicks and David Beck by 6–1 votes. 

Sen. Konni Burton (R-Colleyville) voted against Hicks and Beck. In light of investigations into UT admissions and the UT School of Law’s forgivable loan program, Burton said Hicks, a current regent, and Beck, who was president of the UT Law School Foundation from 2002–2006, have contributed to a lack of transparency. 

“[Hicks and Beck] have presided over a period of secrecy, privilege and sharp rises in tuition at the University of Texas,” Burton said in a statement. “The University of Texas is in need of a fresh start, with Regents concerned first and foremost with improving the strength of the University, getting tuition under control, and ensuring an admissions process that rewards the brightest students and not those with connections.”

Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), who also sits on the nominations committee, had no objections to any of the candidates, according to Fraser spokesman Will McAdams.

 “Senator Fraser listened to the testimony from all three candidates and read the recommendations from the Governor’s Office,” McAdams said. “[He] believed the Governor’s Office had done their due diligence, and that’s why he voted for the nominees.” 

Martinez Tucker is the CEO of the National Math + Science Initiative, a foundation that seeks to improve student performance in science, technology, engineering and math. Beck is a partner at the Beck Redden law firm in Houston. 

If approved by the Senate, Martinez Tucker and Beck will replace current regents Robert L. Stillwell and Vice Chairman William Eugene Powell on the board. Hicks’ term will be extended until 2021. 

Senate committee approves new UT System Board of Regents appointees

Gov. Greg Abbott reappointed Vice Chairman Steve Hicks. Abbott also appointed UT alumni Sara Martinez Tucker and David Beck as new regents, pending Senate approval.
Gov. Greg Abbott reappointed Vice Chairman Steve Hicks. Abbott also appointed UT alumni Sara Martinez Tucker and David Beck as new regents, pending Senate approval.

The Senate Committe on Nominations approved three appointees to the UT System Board of Regents Thursday.

The appointees – Sara Martinez Tucker, Steve Hicks and David Beck – must now go before the Texas Senate for a vote in order to take their positions on the board. 

Martinez Tucker was approved unanimously, while the committee approved Steve Hicks and David Beck by two 6-1 votes. Sen. Konni Burton (R-Colleyville) voted against Hicks and Beck.

Burton said Hicks and Beck have contributed to a lack transparency within the Board of Regents.

"[Hicks and Beck] have presided over a period of secrecy, privilege, and sharp rises in tuition at the University of Texas," Burton said in a statement. "The University of Texas is in need of a fresh start, with Regents concerned first and foremost with improving the strength of the University, getting tuition under control, and ensuring an admissions process that rewards the brightest students and not those with connections.”

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. Both are 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. 

If approved by the Senate, Martinez Tucker and Beck will replace current regents Robert L. Stillwell and Vice Chairman William Eugene Powell on the baord. Hicks’ term will be extended until 2021.

The Senate Committee on Nominations questioned Gov. Greg Abbott’s first three appointees to the UT System Board of Regents on Thursday morning.
Photo Credit: Andy Nguyen | Daily Texan Staff

The Senate Committee on Nominations questioned Gov. Greg Abbott’s three regent appointees for more than five hours about admissions, open records requests, and other issues that have prompted conflict in the UT System at a committee hearing Thursday.

Abbott’s first appointees to the UT System Board of Regents, Steven Hicks, Sara Martinez Tucker and David Beck, appeared before the Senate Committee on Nominations as part of the confirmation process. Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) asked the appointees questions regarding a report’s findings that UT President William Powers Jr. secured the admission of a few applicants over the objection of the admissions office.

When asked about his opinion of the report, which the UT System commissioned, Hicks defended UT Powers told the committee members the president should have some discretion when looking at admissions.

“I don’t see how you could keep a current president from having some role in admissions,” Hicks said. “The admissions officer today reports to this president. I do know [UT System Chancellor William] McRaven is very active in this area, and he’s going to ensure there are no irregularities in this admissions cycle.” 

Hicks was also asked about the extent to which regents should have access to documents, alluding to the controversy surrounding current regent Wallace Hall, who filed open records requests for thousands of documents regarding Powers’ presidency and other UT affairs in 2013.

“I would hope that transparency would be first and foremost in your minds,” committee member Konni Burton (R-Colleyville) said. “I would hope that you would not be an obstructionist to someone that is trying to be transparent and accountable to the people of Texas.” 

Hicks said he thinks regents should have the right to documents and that policies should be implemented to handle large-scale public information requests within the System. 

“I don’t think restriction is the right term; I think there has to be some practicality involved,” Hicks said. “If you’re requesting 2,000 documents, I think there has to be a reasonable set of guidelines.”

At the meeting, board members also questioned Martinez Tucker, who has previously voiced support for the common-core curriculum in certain states. Martinez Tucker said although she admires core curriculum, she is glad it is not implemented in the state. 

“I am thrilled that we have the Texas essential knowledge and those standards,” Martinez Tucker said. “It is the state’s right to create standards. I will respect that, and I will live by that.” 

When asked about tuition affordability at UT institutions, Beck said he wanted to emphasize that affordability was critical.

“I couldn’t afford to go to the University of Texas even back in the 1960s,” Beck said. “Affordability is very important to me and to say that somehow, [affordability is a negative], in the abstract — I don’t agree with that.”

Abbott announced his nominations Jan. 28, shortly after being sworn in as governor. As current regent vice chairman, Hicks is the only appointee with prior regent experience, having been a board member since 2009.

Vice Chairman R. Steven Hicks at a Board of Regents meeting in November 2013.

Photo Credit: Joe Capraro | Daily Texan Staff

The UT System regents have seen their roles transformed in recent years from often mundane bureaucrat to flag bearer for one or the other side in the ideological battles over higher education. Former Gov. Rick Perry and his ilk, led by Regent Wallace Hall, went on numerous crusades in the past years in search of controversial educational reforms throughout the state. In their grand vision, this University — the state's flagship — would be reduced to a second-rate trade school, as scholastic research would be heavily eschewed in favor of quickly producing diplomas.  

This did not sit well with William Powers Jr., the president of this University, and the battle lines were soon drawn. With Gov. Greg Abbott just taking office, and three regent spots open just next month, we have impatiently waited to see if our new governor would follow the anti-intellectual, asinine choices of his predecessor. 

Thankfully, as a result of his new picks and renomination to the Board of Regents, the answer looks to be an emphatic no. Abbott nominated Regent Steve Hicks, a vociferous opponent of Perry and Hall's antics, for another term on the board. He also nominated David Beck and Sara Martinez Tucker, respectively, to other positions. All three individuals are expected to be easily confirmed by the state Senate.  

According to the Texas Tribune, Beck was instrumental in the creation of the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, a group that has been sharply critical of both Perry's proposals and Hall's conduct. Tucker, meanwhile, served as Undersecretary of Education during the last Bush administration. Additionally, unlike Perry's key picks, she did not donate to the Governor beforehand.

In taking these little steps, Abbott has already changed gubernatorial policy toward this University. His actions appear to cement a desire to transform the UT regent back into the bureaucrat it once was, whose biggest priority is the success of the universities and not ideological bosses or cadres.  

Michael Quinn Sullivan, a right-wing activist who has been among Hall's biggest backers, is already unhappy. In a recent post for his website, Empower Texans, Sullivan blasted Tucker in particular, castigating — among other things — her alleged ties to the controversial evaluation system in schools known as "Common Core."   

Indeed, with such a strong pivot away from Perry's deleterious ways, Abbott will encounter some resistance. But we believe the gratitude he will receive from all of us at this University, who have overwhelmingly opposed Perry and Hall's schemes, will far outweigh that resistance. 

Vice Chairman R. Steven Hicks at a Board of Regents meeting in November 2013.

Photo Credit: Joe Capraro | Daily Texan Staff

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.”

A portrait of actress and UT alumna Farrah Fawcett by Andy Warhol is displayed in a 2011 exhibit at the blanton Museum of Art. UT is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with Ryan O'Neal over the artwork. 

Photo Credit: Andrew Edmonson | Daily Texan Staff

For most of the last 33 years, an Andy Warhol portrait of Farrah Fawcett has hung in the home of her longtime lover, Ryan O'Neal, and a jury's verdict Thursday ensures that is where it will stay.

For nearly a month, O'Neal has been in a courtroom as lawyers for UT sought to gain possession of the portrait, arguing that Fawcett bequeathed the artwork to the school upon her death.

O'Neal fought back and testified last week that the portrait was his closest remaining connection to Fawcett, who died in 2009. The actor's descriptions of talking to the portrait and feeling the presence of the "Charlie's Angels" actress were among the last words that jurors focused on, asking to hear his testimony again Thursday morning.

Within 90 minutes of reviewing the testimony, the panel returned a 9-3 verdict in favor of O'Neal. The actor wasn't present for the jury's decision, but his sons Patrick and Redmond O'Neal clasped hands and hugged after hearing the result.

Patrick O'Neal said he spoke to his father and "he was very happy." The actor's attorney Marty Singer said O'Neal was having a medical procedure and that's why he wasn't in court Thursday.

The artwork is valuable, with experts estimating it is worth between $800,000 and $12 million. Ryan O'Neal, however, told jurors he had no intention of selling it and wanted to pass it down to his only son with Fawcett, Redmond.

Fawcett left all her artwork, including a nearly identical Warhol portrait, to UT, Fawcett's alma mater. The model-actress however left nothing to O'Neal, who was her companion for nearly 30 years.

Within days of Fawcett's death, O'Neal took one of two portraits of the actress that Warhol created in 1980 from her condominium. O'Neal had the permission of the trustee of Fawcett's belongings and testified the portrait was a gift from Warhol for arranging the artist's portrait session with the model-actress.

University lawyers attempted to discredit O'Neal's ownership claims with footage from Fawcett's reality show and a "20/20" television segment documenting the portraits' creation.

O'Neal wasn't seen in the footage, and a producer didn't recall seeing the "Love Story" star at Warhol's studio. But she also acknowledged she had no knowledge of who owned the artwork or how it was delivered.

The case featured testimony from O'Neal and several of Fawcett's close friends, who said the actress told them one of the portraits belonged to O'Neal. Two witnesses who were disclosed late in the trial — Fawcett's chiropractor and a former nurse's assistant — also backed O'Neal's claims.

Singer and another of O'Neal's attorneys, Todd Eagan, said two years of litigation and the three-week trial could have been avoided if UT had conducted a more thorough investigation.

"He never should have been sued," Singer said.

David Beck, a University attorney, said Thursday that the jury was conscientious and noted the panel was split on who should have the portrait.

He said the school felt obligated to pursue the case against O'Neal due to Fawcett's wishes. "We had no choice," he said.

Beck said the school's lawyers would look at the case and decide its next steps.

The University showed jurors footage from Fawcett's reality show in which she told an auction house owner that she had two Warhol portraits and was considering whether to sell one. O'Neal's lawyers noted that Fawcett never said on-camera that she owned both pieces of art.

The school also showed the panel documents that Fawcett signed loaning the portraits to The Andy Warhol Museum in which she is described as the owner and artist.

Beck in closing arguments had urged jurors to give the school the portrait in accordance with Fawcett's wishes.

"You've seen Farrah. You've heard from Farrah," Beck said Monday in closing arguments. "Please, please, speak for her."

The portrait has been a cherished possession for O'Neal, who told jurors it is one of his strongest reminders of his nearly three-decade romance with Fawcett.

"I talk to it," O'Neal testified last week. "I talk to her. It's her presence. Her presence in my life. In her son's life."

The jury also determined a tablecloth that Warhol drew hearts on and presented to O'Neal and Fawcett was jointly owned by the couple. The tablecloth was given to the University, and O'Neal has said he wants it back.

Superior Court Judge William MacLaughlin said he will decide what should happen to the item during a January hearing.

While O'Neal's portrait will remain in private hands, the University's version continues to hang in its Blanton Museum of Art and the school has other artwork that Fawcett created.

"We are disappointed that the jury saw the evidence a different way, but we will continue to honor Farrah with the Warhol portrait we do have along with her other works of art," the school wrote in a statement.