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'It's so good to be back:' Harris Pastides officially interim president of USC

Harris Pastides is reclaiming the role he held for a decade.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Harris Pastides has now officially become the interim president for the University of South Carolina, taking over in the wake of the sudden resignation of the former school president, Bob Caslen, and reclaming the role he held for a decade.

The board voted in favor Friday during a special meeting of the trustees, and Pastides will start in the new role immediately. Pastides will be paid $750,000 a year and will live in the president's house again.  

"It is so good to be back," Pastides told trustees in an address moments after he was approved. "I am absolutely bullish about what we can do this year and I am absolutely optimistic about our long term future." 

He pointed to the incoming class of freshman as one of those strengths. 

A search committee has also been set up to find a new president. The team consists of the following:

  • Eight voting members of the Board of Trustees, including Thad H. Westbrook, Alex English, Brian C. Harlan, Leah B. Moody, Emma W. Morris, C. Dorn Smith, Eugene P. Warr Jr. and Mack I. Whittle Jr. Westbrook will serve as search chair;
  • Five faculty members from the of the university system, including: Aiken Faculty Assembly chair (Alexandra Roach), chair of the Beaufort Faculty Senate (Jayne Violette), chair of the Columbia Faculty Senate (Mark Cooper), chair of the Upstate Faculty Senate (Lisa Johnson), chair of the Palmetto College Campuses Faculty Senate (Ernest Jenkins, Lancaster);
  • President of the USC Columbia Student Government Association (Alex Harrell);
  • Several non-voting advisors were appointed to the search committee to represent additional stakeholders and to provide valuable perspectives, including a representative from the UofSC Alumni Association (Robin Roberts), a representative of USC’s Foundations (James Bennett), community members (Lou Kennedy and David Seaton), a UofSC System staff representative (Lauren Smith) and the dean of the College of Engineering and Computing (Hossein Haj-Hariri);
  • By policy, the secretary of the university and of the Board of Trustees will staff the presidential search.

He replaces Caslen, who resigned on May 12 after less than two years leading the school. The board also announced that although Caslen is no longer president, he is being kept on as an advisor until June 30 to help the school transition to Pastides' tenure. 

RELATED: Harris Pastides not interim president of USC just yet

Caslen's departure came after twin controversies involving his speech at the school's graduation ceremony on May 7. 

RELATED: USC President Bob Caslen resigns, Harris Pastides named interim president

Caslen admitted he plagerized a section of a speech delivered by former Navy Admiral William McRaven in 2014 without credit. He apologized to students and faculty on the following Monday. 

In the same speech, Caslen also irked graduates and attendees when he told the students, moments after they turned their tassels on their caps, "it's now my honor and privilege to officially congratulate you as the newest alumni from the University of California."

The schools says Caslen offered to resign on Sunday, May 9 but the president of the board of trustees didn't accept it. But Caslen offered again on May 12, and that time he was allowed to leave. He told the students and faculty in a letter that he had lost their trust. 

"I am sorry to those I have let down," he said. "I understand the responsibilities and higher standards of senior level leadership. When those are not met, trust is lost. And when trust is lost, one is unable to lead."

The school had announced moments after Caslen resigned that Pastides was the interim. But the school clarified a day later that USC Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Dorn Smith III asked Pastides if he wanted the job--he said yes---but that a formal vote of the trustees still had to take place. There also had to be public notice of the meeting. 

Pastides served the flagship university for 10 years and during his time in office, the school saw record growth in enrollment, new levels of academic success and improved graduation rates for all students. The school also saw a campus expansion, new corporate partnerships, and record-setting billion-dollar fundraising campaign.  

Pastides was a professor of epidemiology and first joined USC in 1998 as dean of the Arnold School of Public Health. From 2003 to 2008, he served as vice president for research and health sciences.   


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