The board of trustees voted to appoint Thad H. Westbrook as the chairman and Rose Newton as the vice chairman of the board during a meeting at the Pastides Alumni Center on Aug. 19.
Westbrook previously served as vice chair for two years before going unopposed for the chair position, replacing C. Dorn Smith III. Westbrook is a local lawyer and alumni of USC and has served on the board as a representative for Lexington since 2010. During his acceptance speech, Westbrook said he is looking forward to working with the board as chair.
"It's my job to serve you, the trustees, and serve the university as we fill our mission. We're educating our students and working with our faculty and staff and of course our president in doing so," Westbrook said.
Newton is a bank chairman who has represented Bluffton since 2018. She went against Leah B. Moody, an attorney from Rock Hill, in the nomination for vice chair. With an 11 to seven win, Newton will replace Westbrook and become the first woman to hold the position.
However, the trustee's reelection bids are still up in the air with a bill that would restructure the board waiting to be debated in the South Carolina Senate. The bill, which could fire the current board and reduce the number of trustees, passed the house in April over concerns about the board's leadership. Westbrook said he and university President Michael Amiridis plan to work with the legislature to resolve the issue.
"I look forward to having conversations with members of the legislature and of course the President's been reaching out to legislators and talking to them about the university priorities," Westbrook said. "I think this conversation is going very well."
Westbrook said he plans to prioritize highlighting the university's programs, faculty and students and is confident in facing challenges like funding and debates about what is taught in higher education classes with Amiridis. He also plans to attend events like Amiridis' "Imagine Carolina" forum on Sept. 11 to connect and hear from students.
"I had a lot of opportunities to connect to students and also faculty and staff during the last presidential search," Westbrook said. "I learned a lot as a trustee, hearing from those different stakeholders, including from students, and so I heard the President talk about the forum that he's going to have in early September. That's something that I, as a trustee, want to listen in to."
In his report, Amiridis said the university's freshman class was the largest in USC history with a 6.5% increase in class size since last year.
About 24% of the class is made up of underrepresented minorities with a 33% increase in African American and an 8% increase in Latino enrollment. One out of three in-state students from the freshman class will come in with free tuition, which Amiridis said is due to donors and state support.
"This is a great example of the universities and the state leaders working well together for the public good. And based on my meetings at the Statehouse, I'm very confident that we will have the opportunity to continue to do so," Amiridis said.
During their meeting, the board also approved J. Rex Tolliver as the vice president of student affairs and Michelle Dodenhoff as the vice president of development after the university announced their hiring in July. Tolliver will have an annual salary of $310,000 and be the first African American to serve in the vice president of student affairs position. Dodenhoff will have a salary of $425,000. Both individuals will begin on Aug. 22.