USC's chief to retire in 2008

COLUMBIA -- University of South Carolina president Andrew A. Sorensen, who has led the school's ambitious efforts to develop a research campus, will retire July 31, 2008.

The 69-year-old public health educator and ordained Presbyterian minister said he was not prepared to commit to a seven-year fundraising drive that trustees say must raise hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure the future of the state's largest university.

Sorensen said Friday he is considering several options in the classroom or as an administrator at USC after his retirement as president.

Board chairman Herbert Adams said trustees will begin a national search for Sorensen's successor. Sorensen will remain at his post until a successor is chosen.

Adams, Sorensen and other trustees all said the major reason for a change at USC's helm is the need to dramatically increase fundraising at the flagship state university. A major capital campaign could last seven years, and Sorensen said he could not promise he could stay until he is 77.

Adams said the board did not want to undertake such a campaign under one president and finish it under another.

"The next president is going to have to raise a half-billion dollars," Adams said.

Sorensen acknowledged it may be time for the trustees to look for a president with other strengths.

"Our university requires a president who can see that campaign through from start to finish," Sorensen said.

By any yardstick, Sorensen's tenure at the helm of USC has been marked by many successes.

• Academic achievement levels of freshmen are at record levels.

• More than $300 million in new facilities are under construction or scheduled on the Columbia campus.

• World-class scientists have signed up to move their research teams here, saying they were attracted by the university's growing reputation as a research center and by USC's leadership in building Innovista, a downtown campus that is aimed at providing a complete live, work and play environment. External research funding from federal and other sources has grown 70 percent.

• The Carnegie Foundation has designated USC as an institution of "very high research activity," the highest distinction, awarded to only 62 public research institutions. No other South Carolina institution has the designation.

• Alliances with technical colleges statewide will make a USC undergraduate education more accessible to S.C. students.

• USC and MUSC merged their schools of pharmacy.