Every time Harris Pastides was announced at a commencement ceremony, Dennis Pruitt said the crowd would burst into applause. Pruitt saw it as a way of showcasing the people's deep respect for Pastides.
According to Pruitt, former president Harris Pastides was a dynamic leader and an empathetic person. Due to his love of selfies with students, Pruitt also considered him one of the first social media influencers.
"I don't think people realize that he made the selfie famous," Pruitt, the former vice president of student affairs, said. “He had millions of thousands of selfies. He became so adept at texting, is so adept at understanding the pulse of the institution, became so adept at those newsletters … all of these things he's doing to create a sense of community for the university.”
During his 12 years as president, Pastides was known for attending all kinds of sporting events, going to and hosting many events for faculty and students and, of course, never refusing a selfie.
His wife, Patricia Pastides, said the pair would often be attending about 200 events every 10 months, taking up two-thirds of their days. While many would see such a schedule as overwhelming, it is what Harris Pastides said he loved the most about the role.
“I fed off that and thrived on that. As a fan, jumping up and down, sandstorm, and it all comes to a crashing thud,” Harris Pastides said. “You know, the presidency, it's who I was as a person almost.”
Pruitt said Pastides' first retirement in 2019 and his return as interim president helped prepare him for his second time in retirement and make the transition less difficult.
"He has earned the right to be retired," Pruitt said. "The first time you do something, it takes your full time. You can think through your life, you know riding a bicycle, you know learn to play guitar, you know everything you do for the first time, it takes your full time. That's kind of what retirement was for the Pastides."
Harris Pastides said that while he still may attend some baseball games as a fan, he looks forward to the opportunity to wear cut-off shorts and sandals instead of a suit for shopping trips.
After leaving office on July 30, the couple took time to travel. They took family to the Greek islands and visited Maine and Italy. Patricia Pastides said she has especially enjoyed the extra free time to spend with her mother, kids and grandkids.
Both said they were happy to welcome President Michael Amiridis and his wife Ero Aggelopoulou-Amiridis back to USC after Amiridis' time as provost under Harris Pastides from 2009 to 2015.
“Even about going home, going back to your parents' house. Well it's familiar and comfortable, but you're not the same, and they’re not the same,” Harris Pastides said. “They were excited to come back, but it’s challenging.”
For the Pastides, Amridis’ return means not walking on the Horseshoe as often, attending fewer sporting events and no longer being able to just walk in the President’s House.
“It's our job to step back a little bit, let everybody get to know them instead of just gravitating to those who they know already,” Patricia Pastides said.
Harris Pastides still serves on a number of boards, including the board of the American Medical Association and the Fullbright. However, he said he has also gotten the chance to pick up pickleball and is working on writing a book about his experiences as president of USC.
Harris Pastides, who Pruitt noted as having mentored many future university presidents, advised Amiridis to be himself, stay informed on important donors and know the history of both the university and the larger area as he takes on the role of president.
“Don't read books like how to be a leader, how to think, what to say," Harris Pastides advised. "Be yourself because that's what people like, authenticity, and they're going to be great.”
Meanwhile, Patricia Pastides is keeping busy by teaching an honors course on diet and inflammation this fall and an asynchronous course on Mediterranean cooking in the spring.
Her advice to Ero Aggelopoulou-Amiridis was to work on finding what she is passionate about.
“You just want somebody who recognizes that her role is very important as well and not somebody that's going to just check out,” Patricia Pastides said. “She'll find her programs that she really wants to support, and what her mission is for her time has to really be left up to her.”
In his new job as president emeritus, Harris Pastides still gets to meet with students and young faculty, answering questions about careers or helping with pre-tenure stress and acting as a mentor.
And for those college students that Harris Pastides served for the last time, his best advice, take advantage of it.
“College is unique for all the ways you know it is, friends and fun and career launching. But in another way, it's the most diverse place probably you'll ever live,” Harris Pastides said. “These are things that when you get, even if you're working for The New York Times, you will never have that opportunity quite like that again. Do things. Do everything.”