S.C. the place to invest - Dr. Harris Pastides
Inside Seawell's on Rosewood Drive, Wednesday, September 3, at 7:30 am, Dr. Harris Pastides took his seat next to his wife Patricia at the head table before 450 members of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce. Ike McLeese, the chamber's CEO, welcomed the crowd and introduced the rest of the head table: Dr. Charles Young, president, Allen University; Cathy Novinger, the chamber's chair; Mayor Bob Coble; and attorney William Hubbard, member of the USC Board of Trustees.
Pastides was introduced as an academic dedicated to public higher learning, and in particular affordable excellence for South Carolinians. He began college inside the New York State University system, and his master's degree and PhD are both from Yale University.
From 1998 to 2002, Pastides was dean at USC's Arnold School of Public Health. From 2002 to the end of July this year, he was the university's vice president for Research and Health Sciences. His term as president began Aug. 1.
As a reflection of the university's progress in research, the Carnegie Education Foundation in 2006 first recognized USC as a research institution of "very high activity," the only school in the state to make the grade.
One of Pastides' first official moves was to make plans for a pitch to the S.C. Legislature for more support for S.C.'s flagship university. Another is to initiate Focus Carolina, his comprehensive plan for the university's future. To help with Focus Carolina, Dr. Ted Moore has been tapped from the business school and appointed vice president for planning, a whole new position at the university.
Focus Carolina begins with priority setting, deciding on what matters most. With just so much time and only so much money, Pastides wants to go after the top priorities, mostly, in his pursuit of a plan to set the university straight on its path for decades to come. Focus Carolina is not an annual reconsideration, said Pastides, but it is a force for the far future. It won't happen again for a long time.
The money side of Focus Carolina is a massive capital campaign. The current financial crisis can be seen as a golden opportunity to get organized, get connected, and get going while everyone else has slowed down during what appears to be a mild worldwide recession. Pastides wants to make sure active and potential donors understand S.C. is the place to invest.
As Pastides put it, "Crisis is a terrible thing to waste."
On another front, Pastides is shopping for input, what he calls "Carolina's Ideas," particularly from the students. Out of the 27,000 students on USC's Columbia campus, there is a fat critical mass for new ideas and concepts for change offered by the USC population. They just have to be asked. Then they can feel elevated to the point of sharing ideas, enough to find favorites that work and things that make one wonder, "Why didn't we hear about this before?" Because no one asked.
In that vein, Pastides has already canvassed the campus for recommendations on what car is most fitting for the president of USC - what must be the most appropriate and current and cool. The biggest vote getter was the Mini Cooper, and Pastides just started driving a Mini Cooper, at the insistence of the students.
McLeese thanked Pastides for his time and his talk and then handed him a $2,500 check from the chamber to the university's general scholarship fund.