University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides announced his retirement Wednesday, saying his 11th school year at the helm will be his last.
“No one can expect the good fortune to serve in any position for 10 years – it’s a significant amount of time in any personal career, let alone a college president serving in turbulent times,” Pastides said in a statement released by the school
Pastides made the comments during his annual State of the University address at the Columbia campus on Wednesday. The speech had been delayed several weeks after Hurricane Florence came ashore on the East Coast.
“Let me tell you, when Hurricane Florence canceled the State of the University… I more than once wondered whether that was a sign this announcement was not meant to be,” he joked.
He announced he will leave the post in summer 2019. USC Board Chairman John von Lehe, Jr., said the school will nationally search for a replacement before then.
Pastides was joined by First Lady Patricia Moore-Pastides for the final part of his address. She briefly pulled out a handkerchief to wipe away tears as her husband spoke. The president said the couple wanted to spent more time with their family, noting they often had to miss grandchildren’s birthdays or life events due to school responsibilities.
Pastides was first hired as dean of USC’s Arnold School of Public Health in 1998. He was later promoted to vice president of research before the school’s trustees elected him to replace Andrew Sorenson after Sorenson’s retirement in 2008.
He was previously a biostatistics department head at the University of Massachusetts. Pastides has two Master’s degrees and a Ph.D. from Yale University and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Albany.
Pastides is credited with leading the school through the 2008 recession and into a rapid expansion in both the size of its campus and its student body. He also presided over a capital campaign which raised $1 billion.
However, he has been criticized for the school’s similarly rapidly-growing budget and construction debt and the resulting tuition increases on students, particularly as state financial aid has decreased during the same span.
He was very popular among the student body, however. He was easily recognized on campus and often appeared at athletic events — including the school’s national championships in baseball in 2010 and 2012 and in women’s basketball last year.
Moore Pastides also established her own reputation at USC as a healthy eating advocate. She helped create a weekly farmer’s market at the school and authored several cookbooks, including a history of the President’s Home.