William Powers Jr

Photo Credit: Gabriella Belzer | Daily Texan Staff

DeLoss Dodds spent most of his time in the background during his 32-year tenure at Texas, making deals and silently elevating the program. His steps were quiet; the shadow he cast, anything but.

The University hired Dodds as the men’s athletic director on Aug. 14, 1981, and just over 33 years later, he will step down from the position. It’s a dose of consistency for a man who was defined by it. In Dodds’ time at Texas, he steered the Longhorns to 14 national titles and 108
conference championships.

“DeLoss’ vision reshaped UT-Austin,” UT President William Powers Jr said. “It reshaped college athletics, the entire NCAA. DeLoss, let me say, it has been an honor to work with you, to call you my friend.”

Dodds, a former track coach, arrived at Texas from Kansas State in 1981 and spent the next 32 years nurturing a
blossoming economic and athletic empire. At the end of 2012, the athletic program raked in $163 million in revenue, No. 1 in college sports by more than $21 million.

Texas’ athletic department is a self-funded revenue giant. Dodds ensured his student athletes had the best equipment and treatment possible, all the while funneling over $400 million to the University for facilities in his time as athletic director.

He led Texas through multiple rounds of conference realignment that transformed the landscape of college football. Dodds engineered the school’s 20-year, $300 million deal with ESPN to create the Longhorn Network. The station is a huge asset for the school and an unprecedented recruiting edge.

Numbers define Dodds’ tenure, but it’s his lasting relationships with the student athletes and facility that will pave his legacy.

Former Longhorn football coach David McWilliams (1987-1991), currently an associate athletics director, found stability knowing Dodds had his best interests in mind. The door was always open for McWilliams and student athletes to visit.

McWilliams remembers the wake of the Longhorns’ 31-14 loss to Texas A&M in 1991, dropping Texas to 5-6 on the season. The coach was invited to Dodds’ house for dinner after the game, like he was after every season, to discuss the year and McWilliams’ job status. After the talk, McWilliams knew it was time to step down, but he never
felt pressured.

“I never had to worry about DeLoss,” McWilliams said. “He was upfront, and if it was time for me to step down, he would do it in a way that was first class.”

Former Texas shortstop Jordan Etier, who patrolled the middle of the Longhorn defense from 2008-2011, would see Dodds at practices and games 15 or 20 times a season. Etier remembers the team running extra hard in sprints when Dodds came around because they wanted to impress the man.

“He cared about winning, don’t get me wrong,” Etier said. “But he really wanted to help us develop as a person. He really cared about us, and the life we’d have after UT.”

The now 74-year-old Dodds didn’t always make the right coaching decisions — McWilliams and John Mackovic preceded his hire of Mack Brown — but he nailed his selections more often than not. Brown, basketball head coach Rick Barnes and baseball head man Augie Garrido have overseen Texas’ three juggernaut programs for more than a decade.

Each of those coaches were hired in a two-year span and Dodds has shown an impressive knack for finding and keeping some of the best coaches in the industry. Perhaps that’s because of the way he treats them. Cliff Gustafson, Texas’ baseball coach for 29 seasons and a two-time national champion, remembers his first interaction with Dodds fondly.

“When I first met him, he told me that he knew I was the best baseball coach in the country,” Gustafson said. “Well, from that moment on, I thought he was a pretty good guy.”

James Vick, an ex-officio facility representative on the Men’s Athletic Council, was one of seven people who originally interviewed Dodds for the athletic director position. The interview took place in a basement of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, and Vick knew right away Dodds was the man for the job.

“I had no idea the impact he would have,” Vick said. “It’s impossible to duplicate individuals, and it’s hard to say you can get another person to do what he’s done.”

Dodds is ready to move on and spend time with his family. He wants to see the country and take his wife to Tuscany. But even halfway across the world, Dodds’ shadow will remain, silently watching over the program.

 —Additional reporting by Christian Corona

Students from UT's College of Communication put up their horns and scream after college dean Rodrick Hart announced they were official graduates. 

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Under the burnt orange glow of the UT Tower, thousands took their seat as students. They stood up as UT alumni at the University’s 130th commencement Saturday.

UT officials estimate 25,000 people came to see the 8,358 students from the Class of 2013 graduate. Sanya Richards-Ross, former UT student and Olympic gold medalist, delivered the keynote address at the ceremony, which UT officials have been planning for all year.

The class’ graduation rate, a report UT officials consider crucial, was not available by press time. UT is leading an effort to increase its four-year graduation rates, which currently stand at 52 percent, to 70 percent by 2016.

Attendees also faced new security standards and were unable to take any bags larges than 12 inches into the ceremony, a precautionary measure UT adopted after the Boston bombings.

Richards-Ross told the crowd about the successes and failures she had experienced in her running career. She was diagnosed with a rare disease that gave her mouth ulcers, which she said made it difficult for her to run. 

Richards-Ross said she pushed through this obstacle to do what she loved and urged graduates to do the same.

“In order to achieve greatness, you will experience failure. It’s the bitter ingredient in the recipe for success,” she said. “Without trying and failing, you never get the opportunity to stand in the face of your disappointments, your insecurities or your arrogance, your pride, and say ‘I’m stronger.’”

UT President William Powers Jr opened the ceremony and conferred degrees at the end. He said this year’s graduates came from 66 countries, 48 states and 158 Texas counties.

“That’s more than 8,000 unique paths leading here to the Main Mall, it’s a big night,” Powers said. “Size and diversity are among our greatest strengths and throughout history we’ve welcomed students seeking knowledge, expertise, inspiration and opportunity.”

Rod Caspers, director of University Events, said his office began physically setting up for graduation in April. Hundreds of people are brought in to replant flowers, paint the streets and set up chairs, among other tasks.

There are six immediate staffers in his office and more are brought in to help with graduation. Many of UT’s events are volunteer-based, he said. About 65 people signed up to volunteer at graduation.

Caspers said people could watch the ceremony in front of the UT Tower or in any of the nine indoor viewing locations across campus, including the Student Activity Center and Hogg Memorial Auditorium. Many go there to avoid the heat, he said.

“It’s kind of like we’re inviting family and friends to our house. You don’t invite family and friends if you don’t have enough food,” Caspers said. “I don’t want people to have a bad experience because we didn’t plan for it.

UT officials said last year 52 percent of 6,679 first-time freshman who came to UT in 2008 graduated in four years; 324 were dismissed; 871 dropped out and 2,000 continued onto a fifth year. Officials said final numbers would be available in the fall.

Event personnel checked bags at all entrances to the weekend’s graduation ceremonies. UT spokeswoman Tara Doolittle said the University prohibited bags larger than 12 inches to be brought into the ceremonies and all other bags would be checked. She said UT worked to inform graduates of the change.

Chemical engineering graduate Rebekah Scheuerle said she appreciated the opportunity to work in a research lab during her time at UT and network with the school’s most talented students. 

Philosophy graduate Paulina Sosa said she felt the social experience of studying on campus and interacting with various student communities, studying abroad in Italy and being involved in UT’s entrepreneurship program have changed her life.

“This is the time to really show your biggest supporters, your family, friends and mentors just how much they have impacted you over the years,” Sosa said. “You get to share this victory with the people that believed in you along the way. It's a joyous time that all of us graduates have looked forward to since the beginning.”

Contact Christine Ayala christineayala@utexas.edu or follow her on Twitter @christineayala. Additional reporting by staff writer Jody Serrano.

The Graduate School released the names of the Dobie Paisano Writing Fellowship winners Friday, and expects to announce the winners for the William C. Powers, Jr. Graduate Fellowship soon.

The Powers Fellowship selects its fellows from students nominated by their departments, while the Dobie Paisano Fellowship requires each applicant to either be a native Texan who has spent three years in the state, or someone who has published significant work with a Texas subject.

Dobie Paisano Fellowship

The two winners of the Dobie Paisano Fellowship will stay at a ranch outside Austin for four or six months to focus on their work.

One winner of the Dobie Paisano Fellowship was Manuel Luis Martinez, a novelist from San Antonio. Martinez left Texas in 1989 after completing his undergraduate work at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Since then he has published several books and taught at Indiana University and Ohio State University.

“I’ll be using the Dobie Paisano fellowship to write my next novel which is about a family that lives in San Antonio, Texas,” Martinez said.

Martinez heard about the fellowship from friends and fellow writers Catherine Bowman and David Wright who are both past recipients of the fellowship.

Martinez said he is primarily a “cultural” writer, and he is excited for the opportunity to do his work on the historical 254-acre retreat that housed notable Austin writer and folklorist J. Frank Dobie.

“I’m always interested in the people that made up a place and what stories hide behind the story that is written,” Martinez said.

He will live at the ranch from September until December, and will leave the ranch to the fellowship’s second recipient, Stefan Merrill Block. Block will live at the ranch for six months starting next February.

Block has authored two novels and hopes to complete his draft for a third, set mostly in 19th century Texas.

“It’s a coming-of-age story about a young writer of fantastic tales, sort of an American H.G. Wells,” Block said.

He said this novel will be more expansive than his previously “borderline-autobiographical” work and more a product of his imagination.

He mostly looks forward to the time to work and the quiet that the ranch will provide.

“The biggest anxiety a fiction writer has is time,” Block said. “The fact there is six months devoted writing time and I don’t have to worry about paying bills or meeting anyone else’s schedule seems like the greatest gift you could have as a fiction writer.”

William C. Powers, Jr. Graduate Fellowship

The fellows for the William C. Powers, Jr. Graduate Fellowship have not been named, but the program received a $250,000 challenge grant at the end of last week. Kathleen Mabley, marketing manager for the Office of Graduate Studies, said the private donor will match dollar-for-dollar if the University raises $250,000 from other donors, for a total of an additional $500,000 to the program.

Mabley said the fellowship provides new or returning graduate students in all disciplines with tuition for spring and fall semesters, a medical stipend and a financial stipend to aid in their research.

There have been five recipients in the past in fields ranging from anthropology to mechanical engineering. It has not been decided how many will receive the fellowship, but the announcement should be expected soon.

The program started in 2009 with a $1 million donation from Dr. Steven Ungerleider, an alumnus and renowned sports psychologist in Oregon.

UT President William Powers Jr. said he is extremely appreciative of the donation that created the program that is his namesake.

“Stephen Ungerleider has been a very generous benefactor on a lot of issues around campus, but [the Graduate School] is one of his areas of concentration, and [these fellowships] just happen to be named after me,” Powers said.

Powers said he is confident that the University’s fundraising will be able to match the challenge grant, which means good things for the University as a whole.

“In our graduate programs, we’re competing with Princeton, Yale, University of Virginia and several others in a very competitive market,” Powers said. “We are somewhat behind those schools in the stipends that we can offer to graduate students, and we never want to pass up great graduate students.”

Powers said the previous recipients are doing fantastic work.

“The individuals that hold these scholarships are highly sought after and it’s great to have them on campus,” Powers said.