Ending a search that included 81 candidates from across the country with a man who was on campus all along, the University of South Carolina's trustees voted Friday to name Harris Pastides as USC's next president.
With his wife, Patricia, standing nearby, the 54-year-old Pastides embraced his new post and underscored the journey that took him from USC's dean of public health, to vice president for research and now to the presidency.
"I came to this flagship university and to the Palmetto State on Aug. 1, 1998," Pastides said at a news conference after the board's unanimous vote. "One decade to the day later, I will walk across the Horseshoe to the president's office in the Osborne Building. That walk will be an amazing journey, just like the journey of the last 10 years."
Pastides' selection drew praise from the board members who promoted him and from people outside of the university who see him as a worthy successor to Andrew Sorensen, who is stepping down after six years as president.
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"Dr. Pastides is an excellent choice," said I.S. Leevy Johnson, a former state legislator and community activist. "He has demonstrated an uncompromising commitment to empowering all of the constituents of the university. I predict he will capitalize on the great work of Dr. Sorensen and elevate the school to greater heights."
Pastides' close working relationship with Sorensen and his familiarity with the plan to transform USC into a hub of research and innovation were the key factors in his selection.
"We are delighted to have one of our own move to the presidency in what I call a seamless transition," said Herb Adams, chairman of USC's trustees.
Pastides comes to the presidency at an important moment for USC.
The school, which struggles to get money from the General Assembly, has raised tuition sharply in recent years and is turning more and more to research funding as a means to sustain itself and grow.
Its new buildings and sports facilities are changing the face of Columbia.
In athletics, the university has struggled to live up to the expectations that come with competing in a top-tier conference like the SEC and hiring big-name coaches.
USC's nascent Innovista research campus also has failed thus far to attract major private investment and big employers. Instead, it has been powered by state and university money and attracted smaller companies with local ties.
The university also is on the cusp of a major campaign to raise as much as $500 million.
Pastides, the son of working-class immigrants from Cyprus, said he is up to the challenges facing the university.
"I take our university's commitment to the people of our state very seriously, and today I rededicate myself to it," he said.
Pastides' compensation package is expected to earn him $535,00r a year. It also includes the use of a car and the president's house on the Horseshoe.
That salary, which will be paid with state money and from USC's foundations, is a 53 percent increase from the $349,500 Pastides earned as vice president.
Pastides said he would hold meetings with administration officials and go on a tour of the state in the next few days and weeks.
"I'm going to start inside the university. I'm going to listen. I'm going to meet. I hope to be reintroduced to people, and I want them to be reintroduced to me."
After the board vote and the introductory news conference, Pastides was honored at a luncheon at the South Caroliniana Library on the Horseshoe.
Pastides withdrew from two opportunities to leave USC this year.
One would have taken him back to the University of Massachusetts Amherst as its president. There, Pastides was a professor and department chair, and first came under the tutelage of Sorensen, who was a dean.
The second opportunity was Georgia State University, where Pastides was the lone finalist for the presidency. Pastides said he wanted to remain in South Carolina.
"It's a joyful moment for me and my family. There are very few universities in America that make as big a difference in the educational, economic and cultural fortunes of their state as this university makes in this state."
Born: New York
Current position: USC vice president of research and health sciences
Education: Bachelor's degree, University at Albany; master's degree in public health, Yale University; doctorate in epidemiology, Yale
Professional experience: Professor of epidemiology and chairman of the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst; senior Fulbright research fellow at the University of Athens, Greece; consultant and adviser to the World Health Organization in Geneva