A new chapter

UT Austin officially enters next chapter with Jay Hartzell at helm

UT Austin officially enters next chapter with Jay Hartzell at helm

Jay Hartzell UT president
Jay Hartzell is officially official. Photo courtesy of the University of Texas at Austin

It's officially official: Jay Hartzell is the new president of the University of Texas at Austin.

For those on the Longhorn beat, Hartzell's new job is not surprising. After all, he has spent the past five months as interim president and was revealed to be the only name on the UT System Board of Regents' short list this summer. 

Hartzell, an economist specializing in real estate finance and business education, has spent the past 25 years at UT, beginning as a graduate student in 1998. During his two-decade tenure, Hartzell worked in both administrative and academic roles, including as a professor. He was acting dean of the prestigious McCombs School of Business when he was tapped to take on the interim president role in April after Gregory Fenves announced he was leaving to become president of Emory University in Atlanta.

Taking on the role of president of Texas' flagship university, recently named among the best universities in the world, is a daunting task in normal times. Becoming president during a global pandemic when schools across the world are being thrown into chaos? Well, that's unprecedented. 

It was that kind of gumption that was applauded by Kevin Eltife, chairman of the UT System Board of Regents, during a video announcing the news. "The entire Board [of Regents] was appreciative and grateful that you would step up during such trying times," said Eltife while addressing Hartzell. 

"You've already provided a steady hand," Eltife continued "... And in a year that has brought us a pandemic and a host of other issues, we now have something to be excited about, that Jay Hartzell, a lifelong Longhorn and world-class academic scholar, is leading the Forty Acres and Longhorn Nation."

In his first official letter to the community on September 23, Hartzell laid out his overall vision for the university, while adding that his short-term mission was to keep the campus safe in the COVID-19 era. 

And though Hartzell's letter left out mention of the football team's social justice demands that grabbed headlines across the world in June — he did write of the importance of creating an inclusive environment while toeing the political line required by an Austin-based academic in the Lone Star State, name dropping both the Ford Foundation's Darren Walker and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, both alums.

"This is a dream come true for me because it means that I get the chance to go to work with you and put all my energy into helping Longhorn Nation do what it does best — change the world," he wrote. 

Hartzell is the 30th official president of UT. All have been men, with the exception of Lorene Lane Rogers, who served from 1974-1979 and is largely regarded as the first woman to lead a major research university.