Paul Woodruff thought Thursday’s reception would be just a casual get-together marking the end of his six years as inaugural dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies before he returns to teaching.
But The University of Texas had more in store.
The philosopher, author, administrator, and distinguished teacher was praised, of course. President Bill Powers cited his character, integrity, class, and compassion—his “unbelievable career and contribution to the life of this campus.”
Yet more than words was offered. As it turned out, a band of admirers had decided to show their love with a lasting commitment to the cause he has worked for during the past 30-plus years: enhancing undergraduate education.
Over the past few months, they had secretly raised $270,000 (complemented by $100,000 from the president’s office) toward endowing the Paul B. Woodruff Professorship for Excellence in Undergraduate Studies.
Woodruff was stunned as Powers told reception guests of the surprise endowment, which will eventually reach $1 million. “Wow,” he said, blinking.
Former student Cale McDowell, BBA ’05, MPA ’06, JD ’09, Life Member, was the endowment’s founding donor and made many calls to fellow alumni for support. McDowell served on the Task Force on Curricular Reform with Woodruff, and the newly appointed dean asked him to be his deputy in Undergraduate Studies while McDowell was in law school.
McDowell describes Woodruff as a “model campus citizen” and a good listener who could walk into a room of arguing people and instantly calm everything.
“There have been very few proposals on campus that were as contentious and hotly debated as Undergraduate Studies in its early stages,” McDowell says. “The telling thing is that Paul was able to push something as contested as this and emerge as the most popular guy on campus.”
Speaking to the crowd, Woodruff himself was humble, sharing credit with his wife, staff, colleagues, McDowell, “hero” Jim Vick, and the University itself. “Quoting a famous man,” he said, “‘I did not build that.'”
Others like former student Jeffrey Tsai, BA ’97, Life Member, now a U.S. Attorney, say Woodruff did indeed build something—and that the endowment aims to keep that going. “There was a desire out there to improve in a real, tangible way undergraduate education,” Tsai says. “Paul has carried that water for six years. What we want to do is carry that forward.”
To learn more about the endowment or how to contribute, click here.
From left: Powers, Woodruff, and McDowell. Photo by Kristin Tommey