USC swimmer sports patriotic suit to Gamecock Gala in honor of family in military
University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides’ attire for the Gamecock Gala on Monday night included an extra handkerchief.
“I hope I don’t need it,” he said prior to USC’s annual event to celebrate its student-athletes, “but I can’t promise.”
Pastides’ run as Carolina’s leader is coming to a close. The 65-year-old announced his retirement in October. His final day in office is July 31.
Monday offered one of his last chances to be around the athletic department as members from every one of USC’s 19 varsity sports gathered fashionably at the Koger Center.
His thoughts on the Gamecocks’ attire?
“Probably the safe thing to say is no comment,” Pastides said, “or too short, too much.
“But it’s one night here for them to get decked out. What people don’t understand is they’re in uniforms all the time — tennis, soccer, football, whatever it might be — and they want to show us that they’re real people as well. It’s that kind of night. That’s why we call it a gala.”
Senior swimmer Cody Bekemeyer wore an America-themed blazer to honor family in the military.
“My brother-in-law just got out of the military,” Bekemeyer said. “And my grandfather passed away a couple of years ago. He was in the Navy. So I just wanted to represent them both well.
“And my dad wanted me to wear this. He actually ordered this for himself, but it was too small. But it fits me, so I decided to wear it for him also.”
Bekemeyer, a distance freestyle All-American, stole the show at last year’s Gamecock Gala by rocking a Christmas-themed jacket and tie. That was a nod to his holiday-loving family.
Monday’s style had a deeper meaning.
“He was an Army Ranger,” Bekemeyer said of his brother-in-law. “He was in the Army at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. .... (His grandfather) was in the Navy a long time ago, probably around World War II.”
Pastides saw a variety of athletic achievement over the last decade, including national championships in women’s basketball and baseball.
“He’s awesome,” said senior third baseman Jacob Olson. “When I got here my sophomore year and I got to meet him at the stadium, he’s definitely someone that’s been awesome to us. Without him, it’s going to be someone missed. But we’re thankful for everything he’s done for us.”
Pastides made sure to note he won’t be completely gone from Gamecock games.
“What I’m gonna tell them tonight,” Pastides said, “if I get a moment to speak, is I’m coming back as a fan. It won’t be in those high-price seats. I may be way up high, but I’ll be cheering just as loud as former president as I did as president.”