Speakers focused on improving trust and transparency at the University of South Carolina during President Michael Amiridis' investiture on Friday morning at the Koger Center for the Arts.
An investiture is an academic event, typically within the first year of a university president's term, commemorating a new chapter for the university and serving as the formal installment of the president.
Amiridis' ceremony was attended by donors, trustees, students, politicians and more and featured interludes from USC's symphony orchestra and concert choir.
Amiridis previously served as USC's executive vice president for academic affairs and provost from 2009 to 2015, after more than 20 years as a USC faculty member and administrator. He became chancellor of the University of Illinois Chicago in 2015 before moving back to Columbia and starting his tenure as USC president on July 1, 2022.
Both Amiridis and Chancellor of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Robert J. Jones highlighted the importance of making higher education more accessible amidst dissolving trust in the industry.
“The need for a well-educated and diverse workforce is now greater than it has ever been in our history,” Amiridis said. "The Greek philosopher Plutarch ... he wrote that 'the mind is not a vessel to be filled, it's a fire to be kindled.'"
Jones endorsed Amiridis' ability to make USC an outlier — an institution of higher education that people can truly trust.
“We must emphatically and permanently shatter that lie that educational opportunity is a zero-sum game,” Jones said. "We cannot just continue to talk about these issues, we need university leaders who are willing and ready to be accountable for making this a reality, and that's exactly who you have in your new president."
University of Illinois Chicago’s student enrollment increased by 17.7% in the seven years of Amiridis’ leadership, and UIC also earned the “Seal of Excelencia” for its commitment to Hispanic and Latinx students under Amiridis in 2020, at the time one of only five institutions to earn the distinction.
Amiridis acknowledged USC's need for a passionate university president after former president Robert Caslen's tumultuous tenure and abrupt resignation, which led to the return of Caslen's predecessor, Harris Pastides, to fill in as interim university president for the 2021-2022 academic year.
“If you plan to be a university leader in today’s environment, you must first think carefully about the reasons that led you to this decision,” Amiridis said. “You should also check your sanity.”
Since Amiridis took office in August, the university has made efforts to connect not just with students, but the entire USC community. Most notably, he spearheaded Imagine Carolina, a series of events for students, staff and faculty to speak directly with USC administrators about concerns and suggestions for the university going forward. Amiridis has also made more lighthearted efforts to connect with students like waving a rally towel in the student section at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Before Amiridis' speech, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities Dr. Mark Becker stated that public universities are accessible keys to innovation and opportunity.
"Let us (public universities) rise once again to the challenge of being relevant and important to the future of our great nation. Michael Amiridis is the right person for this time," Becker said.