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Greenville Business Magazine

Pastides Announces Retirement As UofSC President

Oct 04, 2018 09:13AM ● By Kathleen Maris

After a decade of service as president and leading the University of South Carolina through an unprecedented period of growth and success, President Harris Pastides announced Wednesday, Oct. 3 that he will retire as president effective the summer of 2019.

The announcement was made at the annual State of the University address on the Columbia campus’ Horseshoe, the 11th speech of its kind Pastides has delivered as president. Pastides used the occasion to fondly reflect on his tenure as well as thank those who helped him move the institution forward despite taking the helm during the largest economic downturn in a generation and rapidly declining state support.

“No one can expect the good fortune to serve in any position for 10 years – it’s a significant amount of time in any personal career, let alone a college president serving in turbulent times,” Pastides said. “But as important a milestone as this is for me personally, it’s more importantly a reminder about the ways we’ve stood strong and resilient through many challenges and many storms to create an even greater university from the great one it was 10 years ago.”

While the decision to retire as president was not easy one, Pastides said the timing makes sense given his family obligations, the university’s positive momentum, and its current attractiveness to potential successors.

Pastides began his journey at Carolina when left the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1998 to join USC as a professor and dean of the Arnold School of Public Health. He later served as vice president for research, and eventually succeeded Andrew Sorensen in 2008 as USC’s 28th president.

Over the course of the ensuing decade, Pastides led the USC system through record enrollment growth, including enrollments of South Carolinians and African American students; new levels of student academic success and improved graduation rates for all students, including underserved minorities; a renewed commitment to academics and faculty recruitment; the expansion and capital improvement of the Columbia campus and beyond; new corporate research partnerships with Fortune 500 companies; and a record-setting $1 billion fundraising campaign.

First Lady Patricia Moore Pastides also established her own legacy at USC, championing healthy lifestyles and better student nutrition, supporting the school’s weekly farmers market, and authoring several books, including the latest that chronicles the history of the president’s Horseshoe home.

While the accomplishments are many, it was daily personal engagements with students that the Pastideses say they cherish above all.

“There is little doubt that the greatest rewards came from the students,” he said. “There is nothing more powerful and more motivating than a conversation, a high five, a selfie, or a “thank you” from a Gamecock student…serving our undergraduate and graduate students, here and throughout the system, and watching them graduate, has been the privilege of my lifetime.”

The State of the University address also highlighted areas Pastides will continue to advance during his final year in office, including improving student safety, the ongoing dialogue about the Higher Education Opportunity Act, and expanding on-campus housing options. He also said he plans to stay involved in teaching at USC after his presidential tenure ends.

USC Board Chairman John von Lehe, Jr., who joined the board the same year Pastides first arrived at USC, praised Pastides’ leadership of the state’s flagship institution.

“Our university is fortunate to have had more than a decade of innovative and impactful leadership from President Harris Pastides,” von Lehe said. “He met challenges head on and turned them into successes. It wasn’t enough to survive; he insisted that this institution thrive. And thrive we have.

“We educate more South Carolinians and more students than ever before, driving South Carolina’s economy with in-demand and highly employable graduates. We offer new pathways to accessible and affordable baccalaureate degrees. We’re a destination of choice for students from across the country and around the globe. Harris has changed the lives of one-third of our living alumni, with 100,000 students graduating under his leadership. I’m sure that will be his proudest accomplishment.”

Here are just a few of the university’s major accomplishments during Pastides' 10-year span in office:

--Among the fastest growing flagship universities in the nation. Across the USC system, the student body has grown to more than 51,000, up 25 percent since 2008.

--47 nationally ranked academic programs.

--26 percent increase in freshman on the Columbia campus, and a 70 percent increase in applications during the same period.

--Increased the African-American graduation rate by 17 percent; now at 75 percent overall - more than double the national average - and places USC in the top 3 percent of universities.

--Increased the total number of tenure and tenure-track faculty by nearly 25 percent.

--62 National Science Foundation Research Fellows, 65 Fulbright Scholars, 19 Goldwater Scholars, two Truman Scholars, one Marshall Scholar, and a 2017 Rhodes Scholar.

--Completed a successful $1 billion-dollar capital campaign in 2015.

--Became one of the top 1 percent of patent-producing universities in the world.

--The Honors College established itself as the best in the nation.

--Created the Graduate with Leadership Distinction program. More than 1,500 students system-wide have earned the designation over the last four year alone.

--Forged research partnerships with companies like Boeing, IBM, Samsung, Fluor, and Siemens.

--Record research funding, including $258 million in sponsored awards last year alone.

--Launched Palmetto College, the most affordable bachelor’s degree in the state. Over the last five years, nearly 1,200 students have earned their degrees through Palmetto College’s online programs, and more than 29,000 seats have been filled by students across all 46 of the state’s counties in 14 different degree programs.

--Made strides to tell the university’s full history, including two new historical markers detailing the work of slaves in building the campus, the installation of statue of Richard T. Greener - the university’s first African-American professor - and the creation of the Desegregation Garden.

--Launched On Your Time initiative, which allows students the flexibility to earn a bachelor’s degree in less than four years. Since 2008, USC has more than doubled the number of students graduating within four years or less.

--Three NCAA National Championships, including baseball and women’s basketball.

--USC listed by Forbes as one America’s best places to work.