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After 99 Years, Texas McCombs Hires First-Ever Woman Dean

Texas McCombs School of Business has removed the “interim” tag from Dean Lillian Mills’ title. Texas McCombs photo

It took 99 years, but the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business has its first woman dean.

The school announced Tuesday (June 1) that Lillian Mills, a long-time professor of accounting and interim dean since Jay Hartzell was elevated to the university presidency last September, will be the school’s permanent dean.

“I look forward to pursuing new initiatives that advance our strategic goals of speaking on a global stage with a constant focus on the future,” Mills says in a statement to the school community posted on the McCombs website. “While doing so, I will stay true to our nearly 100-year core mission of preparing principled leaders to advance our economy, improve lives, and strengthen communities across the globe.”

‘INFECTIOUS ENERGY & SENSE OF OPTIMISM’

UT-Austin McCombs is currently ranked 18th by U.S. News & World Report and 20th by Poets&Quants, having slipped two places in our most recent ranking. The announcement of Mills’ elevation comes as the school is preparing centenary celebrations for 2022.

However it may rank overall, the McCombs School is widely known as the top accounting school in the United States, if not the world; in 2021 it was once again No. 1 in U.S. News‘ specialty accounting ranking. Mills has played no small part in the 15-year streak. She joined UT-Austin in 2006 and served as graduate advisor for the accounting doctoral program during 2009-2010 and as department chair from 2010 to 2015; she currently holds the Lois and Richard Folger Leadership Chair and the Beverly H. and William P. O’Hara Endowed Chair in Business. Her research interests in tax compliance, accounting for income taxes and effective tax rates, and international taxation arose through her professional experience, where she was a senior manager in taxation for Price Waterhouse.

Mills replaces Jay Hartzell, who served as McCombs’ dean from 2015 until last year, when he was elevated to the university presidency. Like his successor, Hartzell was a long-time insider when he was named to lead the premier Texas B-school.

“I’ve seen Lil’s strengths as a leader for many years, dating back to our time as department chairs together,” Hartzell says in a the school’s announcement of his successor. “Most recently, we’ve all observed the incredible job she’s done as interim dean during the pandemic. After a highly competitive national search, it was clear we already had the best candidate right here at UT.

“Beyond her infectious energy and sense of optimism, she exemplifies the drive for excellence in teaching and research that we seek to instill across the Forty acres.”

‘THE HIGHEST OF EXPECTATIONS’

As interim dean, Mills has been heavily involved in leading operations and strategies to continue advancing the mission of the college amid a pandemic. Mills brings a breadth of experience, from industry to the classroom and serving as department chair.

“I am so honored to serve McCombs, especially at this time, because together we are stronger,” Mills said. “Our staff, faculty and alumni hold each student’s heart, education and careers with complete commitment, and I’m confident going forward that we’ll maintain the same dedication to our students and the university during this time of transition back to normalcy.”

Here is the full text of Mills’ statement:

Dear McCombs community,

I am thrilled to be appointed the new dean of Texas McCombs. I am honored to enjoy the trust of President Hartzell, Interim Provost Jaffe, the search committee, and my colleagues to fiercely lead this world-class business school during turbulent times and into a new frontier.

By now you know I am neither afraid of hard work nor making tough decisions. I look forward to pursuing new initiatives that advance our strategic goals of speaking on a global stage with a constant focus on the future. While doing so, I will stay true to our nearly 100-year core mission of preparing principled leaders to advance our economy, improve lives, and strengthen communities across the globe.

As the work continues, we should take a moment to enjoy this season of celebration. Not only have we graduated another stellar class of world-changers – some of whom experienced loss due to COVID-19, daunting stress, and uncertainty — but we have battled our way through a tough and unprecedented year of operating through a pandemic. It was an incredible feat, with so many faculty teaching hybrid classes to in-person and remote students. We have adapted to change and accepted great challenges to our comfort zones. I celebrate you and am proud of the work we have accomplished together. As I inhaled the sheer joy of graduates and their families at Commencement, I could already anticipate how we will thrive with the new energy back on campus in August!

I understand my stepping into this role comes with the highest expectations from students, staff, faculty, alumni, and other constituents. I also acknowledge the milestone of being the first woman dean at the McCombs School of Business, which celebrates its 100-year anniversary in 2022. I remain committed to working together with you, leading with compassion, and continuing to build upon strategies established by my predecessors. I will pioneer and champion innovation in our education, programs, and scholarship, transform and elevate our alumni and corporate engagement with students and faculty, and propel ahead with optimistic energy and data-driven decisions.

I am excited to accept this appointment, and I’m looking forward to celebrating with you on campus and in person this fall.

Thank you for trusting me with this leadership role. I will do everything in my power to leave a positive lasting legacy at McCombs.

Hear from Dean Mills at CentreCourt on July 27

DON’T MISS MEET THE TEXAS MCCOMBS MBA CLASS OF 2022 and TEXAS MCCOMBS MBA JOBS REPORT: OFFERS DOWN, SALARIES UP