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New UT Professorship Creates Legacy of Improved Education for Future Longhorns

A group of Dean Paul Woodruff’s colleagues, former students, and supportive fans have started an endowment to honor the dean on the occasion of his return to full-time teaching. The Paul B. Woodruff Professorship for Excellence in Undergraduate Studies will support a yearly faculty appointment, to be given to an individual who improves the core curriculum, develops an interdisciplinary program, designs a new first-year course, and/or mentors junior faculty. The school’s advisory council led the effort to create the professorship, with heavy support from UT President Bill Powers.

Members of The University of Texas at Austin community wished to recognize Paul’s contributions as inaugural dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies. Under his leadership, the university has renewed focus on undergraduate education. The school he helmed for six years, now UT Austin’s second largest, has become a much-needed home for students to explore their academic paths and career possibilities. “As dean of undergraduate studies, Dean Woodruff’s work has touched virtually every undergraduate student on campus,” said Steven Leslie, provost and executive vice president. “From the beginning, he brought stellar academic accomplishment, commanded the respect of the entire faculty and applied his masterful administrative skills to the complex task of building a reformed curriculum that has served as a model for the nation.”

Highly regarded across the university, Woodruff began teaching at UT Austin in 1973 with a specialty in ancient Greek philosophy. After three years as chairman of the Department of Philosophy, he became director of the Plan II honors program in 1991 and served on Bill Powers’ Task Force on Curricular Reform in 2004-05. In 2006, he accepted President Powers’s invitation to serve as the inaugural Dean of Undergraduate Studies.

Woodruff is the Darrell K. Royal Professor in Ethics and American Society, and held the Hayden Head Regents Chair as director of Plan II. He won the 1986 Harry Ransom Teaching Award and was inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Teachers in 1997. He received a bachelor’s degree in classics from Princeton University and a bachelor’s in Literae Humaniores from Oxford University. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton. A single thread runs through all of his roles: he shaped and improved the lives of students. Woodruff will return to his faculty position in the Department of Philosophy. He is working on a concept for a new center for research and teaching in practical ethics.


The School of Undergraduate Studies is still accepting donations to the Woodruff fund. Once the professorship reaches the minimum amount for a chair, the fund will be upgraded respectively. Read more from President Powers about the endowment and Dr. Woodruff.

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