Goodbye and Good Luck: Remembering Bill Livingston

Goodbye and Good Luck: Remembering Bill Livingston

Many Texas Exes will remember William Livingston as the deep, warm voice of the TEX registration system, which helped students in the 1990s avoid crowded lines at Gregory Gym and sign up for classes by touch-tone phone.

Livingston, a beloved leader, educator, and friend of The University of Texas, died this morning at age 93. He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Lana; two sons and daughters-in-law; two grandsons and their wives; and four great-grandchildren.

Originally from Ohio, Livingston came to the University in 1949 after earning a Bronze Star and Purple Heart during his service in World War II. He stayed for six decades. In 2001, he received the Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor given to a non-alumnus.

“Livingston wanted to be at Texas,” wrote government department chair Gary Freeman in 2009, “because he likes it here, because of commitments he felt he had made, because he thought his position at Texas afforded him a unique opportunity to flourish as a scholar, and because he believed in the future.”

There were few aspects of the University that Livingston did not leave his mark on. Well-known for his humor and insight, Livingston led the Department of Government and served as dean of graduate studies. He was also senior vice president and acting president of the University, and even served the entire UT System as vice chancellor of academic programs.

An elegant writer, memorable speaker, and devoted scholar, Livingston staunchly defended the connections between undergraduate and graduate education. His influence affected the University’s teaching and research mission during a critical part of the 20th century, as UT grew from a state school to an international institution.

Jim Fishkin, former chair of the government department, called him “the heart and soul of the Department of Government in modern times.” His work for the University and its students included leading the committee that established the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

“I have spent the last 48 years trying to establish a reputation as a teacher, a scholar, as an academic man,” Livingston told the Alcalde in 1997, “and now I seem likely to go down in history as a kind of folk hero, or anti-hero, a more or less anonymous, electronic voice giving canned answers to outraged students on the telephone.”

“Bill Livingston embodied all the best qualities of a university leader: erudition, eloquence, sweeping vision, warmth and good humor,” said President Bill Powers.

Certainly not anonymous, Livingston’s voice will stay with the University community, as will his years of service. For many, there’s no more fitting memory than the send-off with which Livingston ended every phone call as TEX: “Goodbye and good luck.”

Upon his retirement in 2007, Livingston gave the Alcalde some of his best advice for new students and alumni alike. Texas Exes still call us asking for copies, and we’re honored to republish his advice online.

You can read a sample below, and read the full version by clicking here.

“Your life at the University looks toward your life after the University, and whatever you did while you were here has helped lead you into whatever you’re doing now. Some of you are technical specialists because you studied that specialty while you were here. Others simply went through the University wondering what you were going to do when you got out, and that’s particularly true in the liberal arts, which is my home. Don’t feel you’ve been left out because you studied something in the liberal arts. That made you a better person, a bigger person, and better able to command activities that you’re now engaged in. See what the relation is between your University life and your new life, and you’ll find that there’s more than meets the eye.”

Photo by Marsha Miller, courtesy UT-Austin.


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