Could Rex Tillerson Become The Next UT System Chancellor?

Some UT leaders are courting the former secretary of state to replace departing chancellor William McRaven.

By Rhonda Fanning & Michael MarksMarch 26, 2018 8:37 am,

It’s been just two weeks since Rex Tillerson was fired from his post as Secretary of State. That’s barely enough time to get a resume up on But the former secretary may not have to go online to find his next job, since there are already rumors about what his next gig might be.

If those rumors prove to be true, it would bring Tillerson back to Texas as chancellor of the University of Texas System. The system is currently led by William McRaven, a former Navy admiral who plans to retire this year.

Matthew Watkins, breaking news editor for the Texas Tribune, says some leaders in the UT System have been courting Tillerson to consider becoming a candidate for the job.

Like Tillerson, McRaven, who led the Navy’s Seal Team 6 before becoming UT chancellor, was a high-profile pick.

“It’s always kind of exciting when you can get that big name… Make a splash with a hire,” Watkins says.

On the other hand, Watkins says, some members of the UT Board of Regents are not eager to tap a high-profile pick for chancellor, given the clashes with McRaven that led to his ouster. Those regents would prefer more attention be focused on the leadership for individual campuses, rather than the chancellor’s office.

The UT System chancellor, Watkins says, is not an academic position, but an administrative one, involving budgeting and leadership of a large organization. That’s the kind of work McRaven, in the military, and Tillerson, as Exxon Mobil CEO and secretary of state, have done. Neither have worked in education leadership positions. But Tillerson, of course, has been criticized for his leadership at the State Department, both as an administrator and as an advocate of Trump administration policies.

Watkins says Tillerson, a UT Austin graduate, does have relationships with many on that campus, dating back to his time at Exxon Mobil.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.