September 20, 2011
I deeply believe we’re entering a new phase in Austin’s history, one that makes a medical school – and everything that goes with it – both more critical and more achievable than it’s ever been. And when we think about transitioning into this new era, it helps to think about the transitions that have come before.
The first began 172 years ago, when Edwin Waller took the lead in laying out the City of Austin – what’s still our downtown. They literally put Austin on the map. That’s what I call our “Settlement” transition.
The second occurred over the course of the early 20th Century, as our predecessors built dams and infrastructure that kept Austin from washing away, and created beautiful lakes and sources of hydro-electric power. Think of it as a “Stability” transition. They not only stabilized the water but the economy as well, making it stable and secure – a college town anchored by a growing university and state government.
The third is one a lot of us remember well, because a lot of times it feels like we’re still in it. Call it the “Smart” transition, dating back 35 years or so, when the intellectual power of our universities – and particularly the University of Texas – was suddenly plugged into the world’s knowledge-based economy.
This, of course, is the transition that converted a somewhat sleepy college town into an economic powerhouse. Its dividends are all around us still. And an economy that was once known mostly for its students, professors and government workers is world-famous for the technological devices it builds and the ideas it produces.