Letter from the Executive Director: The Center of It All

A view of the most iconic campus building from the courtyard of Mary E. Gearing Hall.

When I first learned there was talk about renovating the UT Tower, I was thinking small—something along the lines of: Sure, I suppose the old girl could use a power wash. Little did I know the scope of what some leading Longhorns had in mind. The truth is, as a Longhorn who spends more time on campus than most, I’d never given the state of the Tower much thought at all. It was still standing tall, which I would have said was the most significant feature of any tower.  

But this is not just any tower. For students, alumni, and Austinites, the Tower looms large in the background of our lives, but it is too easily taken for granted. As you’ll read in Avrel Seale’s cover story, our most iconic building is long overdue for an update. While it never looks better than when it’s lit in brilliant burnt orange for a big win or academic achievement, a closer look at the exterior during the day tells a different story. Rusting windows and chipping gold leaf are signs that the time has come.  

Over the past several months, I’ve been part of a committee that was formed to get the project off the ground and raise awareness about its importance. As we’ve met for hours and hours, often in the stately Stark Library on the fourth floor of the building, the project has taken on a new meaning. This isn’t just about a nearly 100-year-old building with eccentric plumbing and quirky elevators—it’s about preserving the most important symbol of our pride. Like the Capitol and the Alamo, the UT Tower is a landmark that transcends geography and language, belonging to us all.  

I’ve also come to appreciate the Tower’s smaller details. Spend some time walking around the interior and exterior, and you’ll notice these under-appreciated gems. A frieze above a door frame. Ornate bronze sconces at every turn. It’s all worth protecting for the next hundred years and beyond.   

As work begins in earnest on the Tower project, after much fundraising and many more committee meetings, I’m excited for more alumni to get involved. When the project is completed and the scaffolding comes down, it will be the same familiar structure that’s been the center of our lives—but more inspiring than ever before.

Hook ’em,

Chuck Harris, BBA ’86, Life Member

Executive Director & CEO, the Texas Exes


Photo courtesy of Marsha Miller


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