University of South Carolina provost Michael Amiridis was named chancellor at the University of Illinois at Chicago Thursday.
Amiridis, who was second in command in Columbia, will lead the Chicago school with about 28,000 students — just 4,000 shy of USC. His appointment needs approval by Universty of Illinois trustees next month. He would start at the school in March.
Amiridis was well-respected at USC, known for an affable demeanor that made him accessible to students, faculty and trustees. He won backing to hire 200 additional professors as USC expanded in recent years. He also helped expand USC’s summer session into a third semester and create the Palmetto College online degree-completion program.
In an email sent to faculty Thursday, USC president Harris Pastides called Amiridis an “advocate and friend.”
Never miss a local story.
“Michael's years at the University of South Carolina have well-prepared him for this important opportunity,” Pastides wrote. “He has worked tirelessly to enhance the academic reputation of our university. He will be greatly missed, yet it would not have been right to try too hard to hold him back. He is ready for this next challenge.”
Pastides said he would begin a national search for Amiridis’ successor and appoint a search committee on Jan. 2. He said he plans to have finalists on campus by the spring and a new provost on campus for the fall.
Amiridis, 52, was looking to leave USC after five years helping Pastides manage USC’s growth, including adding 4,000 students and hundreds of millions in projects. Earlier this year, he was a candidate for president of Florida State University.
Amiridis said he felt ready to lead a school but did not send out resumes. Consultants approached him and he applied only to colleges that appealed to him.
Illinois-Chicago was intriguing to Amiridis since the school caters to first-generation college students like himself and his wife but "does this with high quality" with a major research presence and large health-sciences division.
"It’s full of opportunity and huge potential," said Amiridis, who has some idea about Midwest weather having spent six years in Madison, Wisc.
Amiridis, paid $423,000 a year at USC, will have base salary of $400,000 a year in his new post. He also will be eligible for a $75,000 performance bonus.
After two decades in Columbia, Amiridis said leaving is bitter sweet He said he learned everything about being a college administrator at USC. He said he will take with him Pastides’ experiences in building good relationships with students, faculty, and state and local government leaders.
A native of Greece, Amiridis joined USC in 1994 as a chemical engineering professor, later becoming chair of the department of chemical engineering and dean of the College of Engineering and Computing.
For his new job, Amiridis was chosen by outgoing University of Illinois president Robert Easter and president-elect Timothy Killeen from four finalists recommended by a committee that screened 55 candidates.
Amiridis’ new employer has a $2 billion budget — double the spending at USC. The Chicago school has 12,000 faculty and staff, and 15 academic colleges, including the nation’s largest medical school. The college also runs Illinois’ largest public medical center.
Illinois-Chicago says its $350 million in annual research funding ranks 57th in the nation. USC received $220 million in research funding in 2013.
Amiridis succeeds Paula Allen-Meares, who will return to the faculty after a six-year term as chancellor that had a stormy end of her tenure.
University of Illinois trustees decided not to extend Allen-Meares’ contract as chancellor and Illinois-Chicago faculty gave her a vote of no confidence for making leadership changes without input, according to published reports.
Amiridis said he plans to meet with small groups on the Chicago campus and listen to their problems and concerns.
"You can’t assume you will have trust and respect," he said. "You have to listen."