El Paso billionaire businessman Paul L. Foster was elected chairman of the University of Texas System Board of Regents Thursday afternoon.
"I just want to thank you all for your conficence," Foster said at the regents meeting after being elected, according to a webcast of the meeting. "I just want to say I look forward to working with the chancellor, with the system staff, the presidents and their staff. But most importantly, I recognize and I know that all of you recognize, that we’re here for the students and for the future of this great state. I Look forward to working on all the things we have on our current list of priorities, and and to all the yet unidentified challenges and opportunities that we will embark upon. Thank you for your confidence and support and I’m ready to get to work."
Foster replaces Gene Powell, whose tenure as chairman lasted about two-and-a-half years and featured a number of accomplishments — among them, the creation of a new university in South Texas — that were largely overshadowed by tension with lawmakers and the University of Texas at Austin, the system's flagship institution.
Powell called the change the "worst-kept secret in Texas" and said that being chairman "has been an outstanding event in my life." He will continue on the board in a leadership role, as his colleagues elected the first vice chairman of the board. Regent Steve Hicks was elected the other vice chairman. The terms of both men conclude in 2015.
Foster was recently re-appointed to the board after a tense Senate confirmation hearing in which he and two other regents were encouraged to "move beyond the controversy."
"I'm committed to that," he told reporters after being voted into his new position. "I'm committed to trying to move this system forward and get passed some of the distractions that we've had and to get everyone working on the same page. I'm confident we can do it."
Foster said it was too early to provide specifics on what changes he plans to make.
Steven Leslie, UT-Austin's outgoing provost and executive vice president, said the university administration was "delighted" at the selection of Foster.
"I think he is a very strong appointment, and University of Texas at Austin is looking forward to working with him," Leslie said. "We feel that we will advance our university under his leadership."
Foster was appointed to a six-year term on UT System Board of Regents by Governor Rick Perry in November 2007. Mr. Foster was reappointed to the Board by Governor Perry in February 2013 for a term to expire in February 2019.
On April 13, 2009, he was elected Vice Chairman of the Board. He was reelected as Vice Chairman on March 3, 2010, and on February 8, 2011.
The Board of Regents, the governing body for The University of Texas System, is composed of nine members who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. Terms for Regents are scheduled for six years each and staggered so that three members' terms will usually expire on February 1 of odd-numbered years. In addition, the Governor appoints a Student Regent for a one-year term that expires on May 31.
More On Paul L. Foster
Foster chairs the Finance and Planning Committee and serves as Vice Chairman of the Audit, Compliance, and Management Review Committee. He is a member of the Academic Affairs Committee as well as the Health Affairs Committee. In addition, Vice Chairman Foster serves as Chairman of The University of Texas Investment Management Company (UTIMCO) Board of Directors.
Foster is Executive Chairman of Western Refining, Inc. He graduated with a degree in accounting from Baylor University and received certification by the Arizona State Board of Accountancy. He serves on many boards, including the El Paso Chamber of Commerce, the Texas Economic Development Corporation, the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor Advisory Board, and the Executive Committee of the Paso del Norte organization. Mr. Foster also serves as chairman of the El Paso Regional Economic Development Corporation. He is a former member of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Foster is also a part of MountainStar Sports Group, the ownership group bringing Triple-A baseball to El Paso.
In early June, Foster donated $35 million to Baylor University for new business school building and Baylor Stadium.
"My family and I believe strongly that we have an obligation to give back to the people, the organizations and the communities that have given so much to us," Foster said in a statement released by Baylor in June. "Like so many other graduates, the education I received at Baylor prepared me for personal and professional success. That's why Alejandra and I couldn't be more pleased to come alongside the University to support the new building for Baylor's Hankamer School of Business, which will provide a transformational and innovative education for Baylor business students, and Baylor Stadium, which will benefit the University and the Waco community for generations to come."
Foster gave $50 million to Texas Tech University for the medical school in El Paso, the first four-year medical school on the border. He became the single largest donor in Texas Tech history with the gift, and the school was renamed after him: Paul L. Foster School of Medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso. The first class of four-year medical students entered the university in 2009.
Foster also gave $3 million to the University of Texas at El Paso for its newest basketball facility, which is named for both him and follow donors Jeff and Sharon Stevens: Foster Stevens Basketball Center. It opened in April 2009.
The Texas Tribune contributed to this report.