Today the UT community bid farewell to a beloved leader, educator, and friend. William S. Livingston—perhaps known best by students as the deep, warm voice of the TEX registration system—passed away in August at the age of 93, leaving behind his wife of 70 years, Lana, two sons, two grandsons, and four great-grandchildren.
Friends and family of Livingston gathered in UT’s LBJ Library Auditorium this morning to celebrate the life of the Longhorn icon, who spent more than six decades on the Forty Acres as a professor, department chair, dean, acting president, and more. Many of his University colleagues were on hand to give remarks, including President Bill Powers, LBJ Library Director Emeritus Harry Middleton, and UT President Emeritus Larry Faulkner.
“I will say simply this,” Powers said to the crowded room. “Bill Livingston was to The University of Texas what Barton Springs is to Austin: a never-ending source of refreshment and enjoyment.”
Punctuated by strains of “The Eyes of Texas” performed by a Butler School of Music quartet, the ceremony prompted both tears and laughter from the audience—especially when a short segment of Livingston’s 1999 Commencement speech, featuring his witty advice for graduating students, was played.
Many talked about Livingston’s professional contributions to UT, which included the establishment of the Michener Center for Writers, integrating the LBJ Library into the campus, and of course, acting as the voice of the TEX phone registration system. But most remembered Livingston simply as a friend, a man with a mischievous smile, an obsession with words, and a passion for anything UT.
“He may be a Buckeye by pedigree, but his blood is burnt-orange,” Humanities Texas Executive Director Mike Gillette remembered telling an Ohio State University development officer about Livingston, an OSU graduate.
Livingston was remembered by all as someone who always had something to say—and wasn’t afraid to say it, either. But there was one instance Dean Emeritus Tom Hatfield recalled where Livingston was completely at a loss for words. In 2001, Livingston was awarded the Texas Exes Distinguished Service Award, an honor bestowed upon an individual who has made a profound and positive difference at the University.
“He was so overcome with emotion, he couldn’t finish the last lines of his acceptance speech,” Hatfield said. Hatfield then went on to read the lines Livingston hadn’t been able to get out that evening, the last of which was: “Let me say it one more time, I love you all.”
One of Livingston’s sons, Steve, took to the podium to thank everyone for their attendance and to remember his father, describing the house he grew up in as “full of books and ideas.” He said his father had never discussed leaving behind a legacy, even when he retired from the University in 2007. But Livingston left one nonetheless, as was evident by the large crowd in attendance at the memorial service—and the countless students who still remember his voice so clearly.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, attendees fulfilled Livingston’s final request by standing and singing “America the Beautiful” in his honor.
“Bill, thank you for a lifetime of service,” Powers said. “And I’d be remiss if I didn’t say it: goodbye, and good luck.”
William Livingston in 1990. Photo from the Cactus Yearbook.