William Jennings Powers, July 31, 1930 – April 24, 2020

PENSACOLA, Fla. — William Powers died peacefully on April 24, 2020 in the comfort of his home in Pensacola, Fla. Born on July 31, 1930 in Davenport, Iowa; he was the son of the late LaVern and Orpha Powers. In 1950, he enlisted into the US Air Force and served honorably. He is survived by his wife, Sally Powers, his three children Mary Mach, William Powers and Matthew Powers (Merrily), and his grandchildren, Jason Powers, Karrie Hilts, Abra Mach and Morgan Mach.

Bill Powers arrived at Michigan Technological University in 1970 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he had been a member of the faculty in English and Director of Freshman-Sophomore English. He spent the next 30 years successively, as the Head of Humanities, the Dean of Sciences and Arts, then as Vice President of Academic Affairs, and at the last as Michigan Technological University’s first Provost.

He believed that university faculty can become administrators, but they also have a continuing faculty teaching responsibility. He taught a course each term and was published – becoming the co-author of one book, the author of chapters in three other books and roughly forty pieces, including papers, short fiction and poetry.

Graveside Funeral Rites will be held on Thursday, May 14, 2020 at 3 pm at Raleigh Memorial Park.

Condolences to the family at www.MitchellatRMP.com.

Obituary and image courtesy of Mitchell Funeral Home at Raleigh Memorial Park.

3 responses to “William Jennings Powers, July 31, 1930 – April 24, 2020

  1. It wasn’t just my first term, I think it was actually my very first class in my MTU career. It was a “Special Topics” class with Dean Powers teaching one of his favorite topics: the works of Emerson and Thoreau. I can remember the classroom, the books, and being asked to stay after that first class. (Oh, no!) Dean Powers saw that I was a first-year student (and shouldn’t be there). I explained that I had taken my freshman English from a junior college while I was still in high school. (I was so excited to take any and every writing and humanities class. My big sister was an English major, and I would play with her textbooks when I was little, pretending to be a college student. And here I was — in the big time. A REAL class.) As luck would have it, I started with the very best. All other classes would be compared to that class. I think that was the only class I was able to take from Dean Powers, but he always spoke to me in the halls in his soft voice and always had a smile when he saw me. And then he handed me my diploma four years later — closing the book he had opened with Thoreau and Emerson.

  2. Bill was an absolute gentleman of the highest order!
    He stood head and shoulders above the crowd, be it a staff meeting, or hove to in a squall. His kind, calm, unassuming demeanor belied an intense intellectual rigor, and – in all – was applied with great respect and genuine vision.
    It was my tremendous pleasure to work with Bill, and also sail with him; I was the fortunate recipient of his considerable professional support on multiple occasions at MTU, for which I remain deeply grateful.
    One aspect of Bill’s legacy – for which he is so rightly admired – is that kindness is the greatest strength, best communicated with a gentle smile, soft word, and sharp mind.
    A rising tide lifts all boats. Bill was very often that tide.

  3. I am just now learning of Dr. Powers’ passing. I worked for him as a secretary in the Humanities Department when he was first starting out. Soft spoken, right on the mark, great sense of humor, and a First Rate human being I have thought of SO often! It is a pleasure to have known him.

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