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University of Texas at Austin officially creates Jackson School of Geosciences, appoints dean

William Fisher
Dr. William Fisher, inaugural dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has approved The University of Texas at Austin’s recommendation to establish the John A. and Katherine G. Jackson School of Geosciences as a separate unit at the level of a college.

The new school combines three components at the university—the Department of Geological Sciences and the Institute for Geophysics, which will transfer from the College of Natural Sciences, and the Bureau of Economic Geology, which transfers from the portfolio of the vice president for research.

The transfers will be effective Sept. 1, when the three units will report to Dr. William Fisher, inaugural dean of the Jackson School.

Fisher has served as director of the school since it was created within the College of Natural Sciences in 2001. He agreed to serve as the school’s inaugural dean while the university conducts a national search for his replacement.

“Bill Fisher’s service as both director of the Bureau of Economic Geology and chairman of the Department of Geological Sciences, his scientific leadership in American and international geological circles, and his federal appointments have given him tremendous national stature,” said Dr. Larry R. Faulkner, president of The University of Texas at Austin. “The University of Texas and the larger community of geoscientists can depend on him for sure-handed leadership while the Jackson School charts its course for the future.”

Fisher is the Barrow Chair of Mineral Resources and a longtime professor in the Department of Geological Sciences. He is a former chairman of the department and former director of the Bureau of Economic Geology.

A member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Petroleum Council, he served as assistant secretary of the interior for energy and minerals under President Gerald Ford. Among numerous honors and leadership posts in the geosciences, Fisher is past president of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the Association of American State Geologists and the American Geological Institute.

Approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board marks the final step in a two-year process to create the new school. The approval followed positive recommendations from The University of Texas System Board of Regents, Chancellor Mark Yudof, President Faulkner and the Jackson School Vision Committee, chaired by Dr. Peter Flawn, former president of the university.

The Jackson School was created as a result of a $25 million endowment funded by John Jackson, a 1940 geology graduate. Jackson subsequently bequeathed to the school the remainder of his estate, valued at about $232 million.

His goal was to invest his wealth in the future of young people studying geology and the earth and to assure that the Jackson School becomes one of the top institutions in the geosciences.