UT seeks to hire Tillerson as Chancellor
Rex Tillerson, who was recently dismissed as President Donald Trump’s secretary of state, is being courted for a new gig closer to home: the top job at the University of Texas System.Tillerson is considered a Longhorn Legend according to a promo on the Longhorn Network of famous grads. He seems to have a stubborn style of leadership that is not open to change. I suspect there will be more confrontations with teh legislature in the coming months as it tries to do away with the speech police that is hostile to conservative thought and speech.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting, and Texas Monthly has confirmed, that representatives from the University of Texas Board of Regents have approached Tillerson about replacing William McRaven, the retired admiral and current UT chancellor who is leaving in May. Although no formal offer has yet been made, a source close to the search said that there is “heavy interest” in Tillerson, a 1975 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.
“Rex is a solid citizen, very ethical, straightforward, and straight talking,” says Charles Matthews, former general counsel for ExxonMobil and longtime friend of Tillerson’s. “He brings great integrity to whatever he does, and if he were chosen he would be a very, very solid choice.”
Tillerson, whose official last day as secretary of state is March 31, would be stepping in at a tense moment between Texas’s political leadership and the UT System. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has been a vocal critic of higher education, arguing that campuses have not done enough to control costs in recent years. Governor Greg Abbott, a UT graduate, has recently clashed with McRaven and the higher education community over campus-carry legislation and Dreamers. Abbott also quashed McRaven’s plan to expand UT to Houston after University of Houston regents raised a fuss.
It’s hard to say how Tillerson would be received as the UT chancellor. He has no experience in higher education administration (neither did McRaven), nor is he—like most recent university chancellors in the state—a creature of the Texas legislature (see: John Sharp at Texas A&M, Brian McCall at Texas State, and Robert Duncan at Texas Tech). Yet given his political leanings, Tillerson might jell just fine with the likes of Abbott and Patrick, even if his recent falling-out with President Trump could make him damaged goods in the eyes of Texas’s social conservatives. “I don’t know if Rex knows [Dan] Patrick, but Abbott knows him,” Matthews says. “I think he would fare very well with our state leaders.”