Robert Hutchings

Ambassador Robert Hutchings has served as the dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs since 2010. He is stepping down in August.

Photo Credit: Sasha Haagensen | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of Q-and-A’s with UT’s deans. Ambassador Robert Hutchings is dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, UT's graduate public policy school. He assumed the position in 2010 and recently announced that he will be stepping down in August. From 1992 to 1993, he served as a special adviser to the secretary of state with the rank of ambassador.


The Daily Texan: Could you tell us a little bit about the LBJ School?


Robert Hutchings: We are one of the larger schools of public policy and one of the oldest. We have been around almost 45 years. We have 350 students, more or less.


We have got a reputation, certainly in Texas, as being the gold standard for public policy schools. One of the things we are trying to work on is to strengthen our image globally. We are opening the LBJ Washington Center, admitting that first class right now. It really makes it more competitive with the other public policy schools that are either in Washington or closer to Washington. So the students will spend one year here [in Austin] and be in Washington to launch their career there.


The other initiative is the executive master’s in public leadership. This is long overdue, I think. And it’s the only one in the state. In a capital like this, with so many state agencies, legislative staffs and nonprofit organizations, it's natural to offer working professionals the chance to get a degree, studying alternate weekends so they don’t have to leave their day jobs.


DT: What does the budget look like now for the LBJ School?


Hutchings: We are in pretty good shape. My whole deanship has seen a net drop in state support for the LBJ School. Frankly, the competition in terms of the faculty salaries has gotten really dramatic. We have to fund those on our own. Now we are entering a period where the financial outlook is much better, with the governor’s positive attitude toward UT Austin and the Legislature’s friendly attitude toward funding.


DT: How important do you find fundraising these days?


Hutchings: It’s very important. I find it’s pleasant and enjoyable… because everything I fundraise for is tied up to a program that I care about. I know for students entering public service careers… it’s hard for them to incur loan debt. That will drive them to the private sector, which is not what we are about.


DT: How much time do you spend on fundraising?


Hutchings: A quarter to a third of my time is related to fundraising, either directly or indirectly.


DT: Where do LBJ students go after graduating?


Hutchings: It’s all over the map. Both figuratively and literally. The largest group of our students are here in Austin. Washington is second, with Houston in third and Dallas a very distant fourth. They are in elective office, federal government, at the domestic and international levels. They are all over state government and city government. Seventy-five percent, over time, go into public service. About 25 percent enter the private sector.


DT: How does the school collaborate with other colleges on campus?


Hutchings: We have lots of specializations and joint degree programs — 27 in total. Some are quite active: Law, Middle Eastern studies, Latin American studies, even Engineering and Business. That’s a way to keep us linked academically with the rest of campus.


DT: How about with the new medical school?


Hutchings: That relationship has really taken off. We have one faculty member with a dual appointment at the Seton Medical Center, which is the first ever such appointment. We have very strong faculty in health policy and health economics. We actually collaborate with Dean Clay Johnston [of the medical school] on a number of things. One is to share office space in Washington, D.C., because he has in mind a Washington presence as well. We are working on a joint curriculum. As they staff up, they will have a joint M.D. and master of public affairs degree.


DT: Why are you stepping down?


Hutchings: I really had the view that one term [six years] was going to be enough. You really need to give the opportunity to someone else with a different set of ideas. I expect to be back as a faculty member for several years.


DT: What do you think your legacy is?


Hutchings: I think the legacy is a number of programs that will last into the indefinite future. The Washington Center, the executive master’s program and the international program. I hope people look back at my tenure and say despite the difficult financial situation, the school built up really important things. It transformed the public image in reality.


DT: What are you trying to do for the rest of your term?


Hutchings: I have six months left, and I want to do as much as I possibly can. One thing that we have been working hard on is a diversity initiative. We have been working with our counterparts in African studies, Latino Studies, History, Government and a couple of other departments. Every public policy school I know struggles to have a diverse faculty and student body. You don’t attract a diverse student body unless you have a diverse faculty. You don’t hire diverse faculty unless there are programs that they are excited about coming to. 

From left, Tom Gilligan, dean of the McCombs School of Business, and Robert Hutchings, dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs, will step down at the end of the semester, according to a blog post  by UT President William Powers Jr.

Two UT deans will step down at the end of the semester, according to a blog post released Friday by UT President William Powers Jr.

Robert Hutchings, dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs, and Tom Gilligan, dean of the McCombs School of Business, will be stepping down from their positions, Powers said in the post. The two will join Roderick Hart, dean of the Moody College of Communication, Kevin Hegarty, UT’s vice president and chief financial officer, and Powers in leaving the University at the end of this term.

It is likely the new deans will be named by the next UT president, according to University spokesman Gary Susswein. The next president will be announced in March, according to a UT System timeline.

“Broadly speaking, I think anytime there’s a leadership change in an organization, you see turnover like this,” Susswein said. “Whether it’s Dean Gilligan, or Dean Hutchings, or Vice President Kevin Hegarty who is leaving, you know these are people who have been at UT Austin for a long time and have contributed a lot.”

Gilligan, who could not be reached for comment on his decision to step down, helped shape McCombs into the high-ranking business school it is today, Susswein said. 

“McCombs is one of the best business schools in the country and, especially among public universities, is one of the top, and a lot of that is because of what Dean Gilligan has brought there in terms of developing new programs, in terms of making sure that we have the top faculty and the top students and even in terms of facilities,” Susswein said.

In an email sent to faculty and staff, Powers said Gilligan has helped students prepare for the world outside of academia.

“He has attracted top faculty and students and fostered research that is central to UT’s intellectual climate,” Powers said in the email. “He has also built and expanded multiple programs that support industry while challenging students and preparing them to be leaders.”

Hutchings, who has been dean of the LBJ school since 2010, said that when he took the position as dean, he only planned to stay one semester. 

“We’ve done a lot during my tenure. I feel like I’ve achieved just about all the things we set out to achieve when I first arrived, and it’s been a pretty long agenda of issues and items, so I feel good about that,” Hutchings said.

Hutchings said he will be a visiting professor at Princeton University in the fall and a distinguished fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C. in the spring to work on a new book. Following his work at Princeton and in Washington D.C., he said he will return to UT as a faculty member in the LBJ School.

“It’s fairly traditional when a dean steps down, if he’s going to return to the faculty, the old dean leaves town to give a new dean a chance to sort of make his or her own imprint on the place,” Hutchings said.

Newly elected Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appointed a UT visiting professor as the country’s finance minister Tuesday.

Yanis Varoufakis, a visiting professor in the LBJ School of Public Affairs, became an elected member of the Greek parliament this Sunday. He was sworn in as finance minister during a ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Athens on Tuesday.

Serving under Tsipras, Varoufakis will be a part of a new cabinet to advise the prime minister.

Varoufakis is one of the primary critics of Greece’s ongoing economic policies, which have sunk the economy to a historic low since the beginning of the Great Recession in December 2007, according to a statement from UT, “Varoufakis has been a leading voice of opposition to the policies conducted since the start of the financial crisis in Greece and throughout Europe by the European Union and its allied institutions, including the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank,” the statement said.

Robert Hutchings, dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs, said Varoufakis is not new to the discussion about the Greek economy.

“He’s a prominent public intellectual known, not only in Greece as a major political figure, but around Europe, and he has been at the forefront of the discussion of the crisis in the eurozone,” Hutchings said.

Varoufakis said he will implement economic solutions that work for the various stakeholders of the Greek economy.

“As the next finance minister, I can assure you that I shall not go into the Eurogroup seeking a solution that is good for the Greek taxpayer and bad for the Irish, Slovak, German, French and Italian taxpayer,” said Varoufakis.

Although Varoufakis only taught at UT for two years, Hutchings said his time at the LBJ School served both students and faculty.

“It’s great for us as a faculty to have had him here for two years and great for students to have had the chance to study under someone who is now doing one of the toughest jobs in the world,” Hutchings said

The LBJ School of Public Affairs will debut a multi-year initiative to highlight current civil rights issues called "50/50." The initiative will be presented as a series of 50 events to commemorate the 50 years that have passed since the legislative action of President Lyndon B. Johnson. 

Photo Credit: Helen Fernandez | Daily Texan Staff

A multi-year initiative to highlight current civil rights issues by remembering the civil rights legislation of the past debuts Wednesday on behalf of the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

The initiative, known as “50 for 50,” will be presented in a series of 50 events to commemorate the 50 years that have passed since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed several key pieces of civil rights legislation, such as the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

LBJ School dean Robert Hutchings said he hopes the events — including a Civil Rights Summit from April 8-10 that will feature keynote speeches on campus by presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — will ignite action among the students that can influence future legislation.

“It’s a catalyst for getting those people of [the college-aged] generation to start thinking about public service,” Hutchings said. “Our commemoration of these events doesn’t mean we have a political agenda. It’s a time for deliberating these [civil rights issues].”

The series of events is a celebration of civil rights triumphs of the past but, more importantly, will focus on the issues that are pressing today, according to Mark Updegrove, director of the LBJ Presidential Library. Updegrove said he thinks there is still room for improvement in civil rights issues.

“We always have to pay attention to issues like education and immigration and ensure that racism or discrimination of any kind does not hold us back,” Updegrove said. “While we’ve made progress in these areas, I think we always must remain vigilant and ensure that we live up to the American promise.”

Mohnish Gandhi, finance and Plan II senior, said he thinks the initiative should focus on the most contentious civil rights issues.

“I hope the series tackles the topics that are more controversial as opposed to more conservative in nature,” Gandhi said. “I think that will create more of an impact on campus because students are more attracted to controversial issues that have more time in the spotlight.”

Hutchings said he hopes the events will be dramatic enough to call attention to the approaching anniversaries of other civil rights legislative acts.

“If you look at LBJ, whether you agree or disagree with his policy, he was a president who knew how to get things done,” Hutchings said. “We want to pass on this spirit to the next generation.”

In his speech “Civility for a Great Society” at the LBJ School of Public Affairs on Tuesday afternoon, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee spoke about lessons learned from the Johnson administration and how those lessons could be applied to society today.

Photo Credit: Mengwen Cao | Daily Texan Staff

Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee said during a speech at the LBJ School of Public Affairs on Tuesday that the recently increased levels of partisanship in American politics have prevented politicians from leading effectively.

According to Chafee, he lost re-election as a Republican senator in 2006, despite high approval ratings, because Rhode Islanders wanted a Democratic majority in the Senate.

Chafee said the increased polarization is partly due to members of Congress spending far less time together than in past years because of the ease of transportation today. 

“[Former South Carolina Senator] Strom Thurmond used to say, when jet travel came in, the Senate changed because everybody would go back to their districts,” Chafee said. “But that’s the reality, you want to be seen in your home district.”

Chafee said politicians should value their integrity as representatives of the people more than gathering votes for the next election.

“My colleagues in the Senate value their membership in the Senate — that exclusive club membership — more than what’s best for our country,” Chafee said.

Robert Hutchings, the dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs, said the best way to combat polarization is to fix things one at a time. He called to those dissatisfied with politics to take it upon themselves to work toward a solution by getting involved.

“Not everything is broken in government,” Hutchings said. “We’re in a bad period now, and there’s a lot of cynicism right now, but the best way to fight cynicism is to enter the arena … don’t complain, go out [and] make a difference.”

Pete Phillips, an Austin resident and ex-marine who attended the talk, said he believes a major problem to overcome is politicians whose only motivation is to stay in office, as opposed to working together toward a common goal. Phillips said he believes politicians too often allow the wills of special interest groups to sway their votes rather than focusing on the best interests of their constituents.

“The problem with American politics is that we’re too polarized today, and there just needs to be common sense brought back,” Phillips said.

Chafee said polarization is harming President Lyndon Johnson’s legacy of using government to create helpful social programs.

“I think President Johnson would be dismayed at some of the attacks on the beneficial social programs that helped grow the middle class, particularly in education,” Chafee said.

Editor’s Note: This is one story in a series of features on external UT foundations that will end Wednesday. 

When former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin was hired to a prominent position at the LBJ School of Public Affairs earlier this year, an external foundation played a critical role in her employment. 

The Barbara Jordan Visiting Professor in Ethics and Political Values chair at the school is one of many financial incentives the LBJ School is able to offer because of contributions from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation, said Robert Hutchings, dean of the school. 

“We wouldn’t have the faculty support we have without those chairs,” Hutchings said. “We wouldn’t be able to recruit the students we have without that support.” 

Despite accumulating a $157 million endowment, the most of any external foundation linked to UT, executive director Mary Herman said many people still don’t even know it exists. 

“I think the LBJ Foundation has kept a low profile so a lot of people don’t even know we exist, or what we do for the library and the school,” Herman said.

The LBJ Foundation formed in 1969 when President Lyndon Baines Johnson and friends decided to raise money for an endowment that would benefit the public affairs school and presidential library that were being constructed in his honor. A board of directors that meets biannually includes members of the Johnson family, their friends and younger members who have experience in public affairs. The board helps keep the foundation going, Herman said.

Herman said the foundation’s next big plans include events in Washington, D.C., and Austin in 2014 to honor the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed and signed by Johnson.

The foundation gave more than $4.2 million to the LBJ School in 2011, according to IRS documents. Most of the funding is earmarked for endowed chairs for professors and graduate student fellowships, Hutchings said. 

“Although we continue to raise funds for the school and the library, the majority of our funding comes from the endowment,” Herman said. “We’ve been in existence for a while, so we’ve really been able to earn a lot of money on funds that were there in the beginning. We’ve added to that over time, but it’s certainly built on that over time.”

The foundation’s eight employees work closely with the school, said Larry Temple, chairman of the board of directors. 

“From the standpoint of the school, we just try to provide scholarships and fellowships that will help attract the best students and the best faculty,” Temple said. “We don’t get into the business of trying to run that school at all. We try to work to provide the best financial resources available so the school can reach its ambitions.”

The foundation also works with the LBJ Presidential Library to direct funds to a variety of projects, including providing research grants to the LBJ School, administering the Lady Bird Johnson Environmental Awards and redesigning the library — which reopened in December after an $11 million renovation. The foundation contributed more than $2.5 million to the library in 2011, according to IRS documents. 

“Having so many balls in the air at one time, you’ve really got to be proactive and respond quickly and be really nimble in managing all these different interests,” Herman said.

Related Headlines

Changes could be on the horizon for UT fundraising foundations

University External Foundations Profiles

Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation (Active)

Foundation brings in extra revenue to McCombs

Communication foundation inactive after years of not turning profit

Foundation to transfer full ownership of Suida-Manning collection

New investigations of UT Law School Foundation and forgivable loans begin

Printed on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 as: Foundation maintains LBJ funding

This article was corrected after its original posting. The LBJ Foundation was formed in 1969.

Former two-term mayor of Atlanta, Shirley Franklin, will be serving as a visiting professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs this spring.

Franklin, who served as mayor of the city from 2002 to 2010, will be the college’s first Barbara Jordan Visiting Professor in Ethics and Political Values.

Robert Hutchings, dean of the LBJ School, announced Franklin’s position Tuesday. Hutchings said discussions about filling the professorship began last year.

“I had talked to some alumni, faculty, friends of the school and her name came early,” Hutchings said. “It was not a hard decision; Shirley Franklin is an inspirational figure. I see her playing a crucial national role later on.” 

Franklin was the first female mayor of Atlanta and the first African-American woman to be elected mayor of a Southern city. She was also president of the National Conference of Democratic Mayors and was selected by Time magazine as one of the five best big-city mayors in 2005.

The Barbara Jordan Chair in Ethics and Political Values was created almost 15 years ago but remained vacant until Franklin’s appointment. Jordan was the first black woman elected to the Texas Senate and the first black woman from the South to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She also served as a professor at the LBJ School from 1979 to 1996.

“Barbara Jordan’s legacy was so extraordinary that it was hard to find someone to fill it,” Hutchings said, “which is why the position was vacant for so long.”

Franklin said she is humbled to have her name associated with Jordan.

“When I think of Barbara Jordan I think of integrity, intelligence, courage, persuasion and compassion for the poor,” Franklin said. “I am so thankful.”

Franklin visited UT for the first time in the fall of 2012, when she met with community leaders, students, faculty and representatives of the LBJ Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the college and the LBJ Presidential Library. Franklin said she is looking forward to her new role.

“Austin is a city that for a very long time mayors looked for best practices and innovation,” Hutchings said. “I am looking forward to see what the students have to tell me.”

Hutchings said that he is very proud to have Franklin among the faculty, although her role and the classes she will teach have not yet been determined. 

“More than a specific set of responsibilities, she adds an ethical and moral dimension to the school and the University that we didn’t have before,” Hutchings said. “We are still to talk which classes in specific she might even be giving.”

Franklin is interested in studying trends in megaregions, shaping environmental policy and fighting poverty. Franklin will also play a crucial role in the development of a new urban management program.

“I don’t have the typical credentials of an academic, but I have a lot of practical experience,” Franklin said. “You will find that I have a long history in the issues of fighting poverty and homelessness. There is a lot of expertise in government, and I would like to help build bridges.”

Junior economics major Eric Alanis, who is also an aide at the Texas Capitol, said Franklin’s appointment is a great opportunity for students.

“We have the opportunity to study with and meet with one of the best public administrators there is,” Alanis said. “She is committed to reform and isn’t afraid of big challenges: deficit, inefficiency, structural investment, you name it.”

Printed on Thursday, January 17, 2013 as: Prominent mayor to join LBJ faculty 

[Corrected Oct. 1: Because of a reporting error, this story misidentified Kerri Battles, a public affairs specialist, as an LBJ School spokeswoman. The story also should have said the RGK Foundation donated $5 million to the LBJ School, and misidentified the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service as a branch of the RGK Foundation.]

 Ronya Kozmetsky, who contributed millions to a philanthrophic center in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, died Tuesday at the age of 90.

Ronya and her late husband George Kozmetsky created the RGK Foundation, an independent philanthropic foundation that seeks to create progressive ways to aid the needy.

RGK are the initials of Ronya and George Kozmetsky. Ronya’s daughter Nadya Scott and her son Gregory Kozmetsky, who now heads the Foundation, survive her.

The foundation donated an initial $5 million to establish the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service in the LBJ School, according to the center's website. The RGK Center is an affiliated branch of the foundation.

Kozmetsky’s optimism and belief in giving was galvanizing, said LBJ School dean Robert Hutchings. Her legacies, the RGK Foundation and the RGK Center in the LBJ School, embody the way she looked at helping people, he said.

“I never had the privilege of actually meeting her, but I know of her work,” Hutchings said. “She was an inspiring figure. The real contribution [to philanthropy] that she made was her idealism, and believing in a culture of giving and a culture of philanthropy.”

Through her foundations, her giving expanded not just in Austin but throughout and outside of Texas, Hutchings said.

Her greatest gift was her revolutionary view on philanthropy, he said.

“She took the whole idea of philanthropy on a more systematic basis,” he said. “She understood that as important as it was to provide for the needy, there needed to be this whole culture of giving. I think that’s what the RGK Center has.”

Funeral services are scheduled for 3 p.m. today at Tarrytown United Methodist Church.

Printed on Friday, October 28, 2011 as: Renowned philanthropist dies at 90