For the past decade, Harris Pastides has served as the president of the University of South Carolina. As president, Pastides leads the USC flagship system of eight institutions in 19 geographic locations alongside his wife, First Lady Patricia Moore-Pastides.
“It’s just been an honor and a privilege,” Pastides said.
Pastides first came to USC to be the dean of the School of Public Health and then advanced to the position of Vice President for Research and Health Sciences. On Aug. 1, 2008, Pastides and his wife were selected to become the president and the first lady of the university.
“My whole life has been embedded in school, from my first day of kindergarten to this ... I've never had a year where I wasn’t either at a school or a university," said Pastides. "I do love it.”
One of the very first challenges Pastides faced upon officially being named president was the effects of the Great Recession.
“Our budget got cut by nearly 50 percent over two to three years. It was a great challenge to not furlough or fire too many people to keep the best of the university going,” said Pastides. “It wasn’t only me who got us through, it was this wonderful team of people we had and the faculty and many others.”
Finding enough state support to fund university operations is an ongoing challenge. Other concerns included floods that decimated the region and the effects of alcohol abuse.
“I’m very, extremely sad when I have to call a family and ... I’m not the one who tells them they’ve lost a child, but who expresses sympathy in the days after,” said Pastides. “That concerns me as well and that’s something we’re going to continue to work very hard on.”
During his time as president, Pastides has played a part in providing greater support to students through programs such as On Your Time graduation and the Palmetto College program.
The On Your Time program serves students on nontraditional tracks for finishing their degree. The Palmetto College is a baccalaureate program for people that have already completed two years of college and can continue to earn their USC degree online.
“I’m very proud of that 'cause you can get a USC degree without coming here,” said Pastides. “It’s much more affordable than one offered by a private sector university.”
In recent years, Pastides has enjoyed watching the number of applications increase and being inspired by the quality of life he sees at Carolina. He has seen a rise in rankings for the school of business, the school of public health, the engineering programs and the currently top-ranked honors college.
“I would say, relative to the student body, we continue to attract larger numbers of better qualified students,” said Pastides. “Building our reputation ... and now a great global university, that says a lot.”
Some of Pastides’ favorite memories at USC include beating Alabama in football when the Crimson Tide were ranked number one and watching the baseball team win its first national championship in 2010.
“That ring, of all of the rings I’ve gotten, and there have been many, that’s the one that I cherish the most,” said Pastides. “It happened in Omaha, Nebraska, but it kind of was like a glass ceiling that we broke through.”
For students, Pastides is better known for his social media presence and efforts to connect with the student body.
“I think he’s awesome, he’s always taking selfies,” said Selena Schulteis, a third-year biomedical engineering student. “I remember last year he came to the library and passed out cookies to people studying for finals ... I think he’s sweet.”
Pastides has accomplished a lot in the past ten years, and now he's looking to the future. He hopes to see a second student center built in order to relieve pressure on the Russell House and a health science center built in response to the growth that USC is experiencing in health science education.