Who will take the reins at USC after Pastides? Here are some contenders

After more than 10 years in charge, it will be hard for students, faculty and alumni to picture anyone other than Harris Pastides as president of the University of South Carolina.

Pastides, who announced his retirement on Wednesday, has left his mark as the 28th president of the state’s flagship university. But before he leaves office on July 31, 2019, the college’s board of trustees will have to pick a 29th leader to run the show.

The new president will face some challenges. Harvey Peeler, chair of the SC Senate education committee, said Wednesday any new president will have to address rising tuition costs on the Columbia campus, and adjust what many politicians overseeing the school call the “unacceptable” ratio of out-of-state to in-state students.

But who will fill Pastides’ shoes? Here are some contenders for the next person who will be handing out degrees at USC graduations.

Joan Gabel
Joan Gabel Photographer: Art Smith

Joan Gabel

Gabel is USC’s provost, a powerful post that oversees graduate and undergraduate academic programs, curriculum development and academic affairs. Before coming to USC in 2015, the Atlanta native served as dean of the University of Missouri’s business school, held various chairs and directorships at Florida State and Georgia State universities, and edited the American Business Law Journal. She was named a “shining star” among women business school administrators by the Wall Street Journal in 2012.


Mark Becker

Becker has served as president of Georgia State University since 2009. But before taking on the job in Atlanta, Becker was at USC from 2004 to 2008. In Columbia, he was a statistics professor and served as provost and executive vice president of academic affairs. At Georgia State, Becker has set records for enrollment (more than 51,000, roughly equal to USC’s enrollment) and graduation rates, according to his school web page. He was named one of America’s 10 most innovative university presidents by Washington Monthly in 2015.


Michael Amiridis

Amiridis was USC’s provost until 2015, when he became chancellor of the University of Illinois at Chicago. He’s led a three-year enrollment record at UIC, reaching 30,500 in fall 2017, according to the school’s website. He was dean of USC’s College of Engineering and Computing from 2006 to 2009, and chaired the department of chemical engineering from 2002 to 2006. He came to USC as a professor of chemical engineering in 1994.

Dennis Pruitt

Dennis Pruitt

A longtime USC administrator, Pruitt has served as vice provost overseeing student affairs since 1983, improving student services and strategic planning along the way. In 2011, he won the Award for Outstanding Service as a Dean from a national student affairs organization, among other professional awards. He earned his doctorate at USC after finishing undergrad at Armstrong Atlantic State in Savannah and his master’s at West Georgia College.

Related stories from The State in Columbia SC