Al M. Panu tapped to be USC Beaufort chancellor

Al M. Panu brings 15 years of higher education leadership at colleges in the University System of Georgia to his new role as chancellor of the University of South Carolina Beaufort.

His appointment was announced Friday (June 19) by University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides, who said Panu’s extensive background leading academic affairs at Gainesville State College and the University of North Georgia combined with his excellence as a scholar makes him the ideal choice to succeed Jane T. Upshaw, who is retiring after 12 years as chancellor.

"It is critical that we make the right choice for USCB to ensure the momentum of growth continues, and I believe Dr. Panu is the right person to lead us into the next era at Beaufort," Pastides said. "Dr. Panu is an accomplished scholar and academic leader. Under his leadership, enrollment has increased at all three campuses he currently leads. While Chancellor Upshaw will certainly be a tough act to follow, I know Dr. Panu will earn the friendship and trust of the community as we continue to build a university in which we are increasingly proud."

Panu, 58, said it was the vision for USC Beaufort that attracted him to the chancellor position.

“I was so impressed that the USC Beaufort vision of a distinctive academic, student-centered and community-engaged education was alive and that it energized my colleagues at USCB. And, I was thoroughly amazed at the level of engagement and support shown by the community toward the university,” Panu said. “I am very honored to have the opportunity to serve as the next USCB chancellor as we continue to expand our efforts to provide a first-rate, world-class higher education opportunity to the Lowcountry region of our state.”

Panu’s appointment culminates a nearly 30-year career in higher education in which he has worked closely with students, faculty, administrators and alumni as well as local and state leaders. Building on an academic career as a chemistry professor at Kennesaw College, Panu joined Gainesville State College in 2007 as a chairman of the Division of Science, Engineering and Technology, later being named dean of the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in 2010 and vice president for academic affairs in 2011.

In 2013, Panu was named senior vice president for university affairs at the University of North Georgia, where he served on the leadership teams responsible for the consolidation of Gainesville State College and North Georgia College and State University.

At UNG, he oversees the Gainesville, Oconee and Cumming campuses and guides the institution’s academic support services, the learning support program, English as a second language program, academic advising center as well as centers that serve adult learners and military. Under his leadership, enrollment has increased at all three campuses.

“The experience of serving on leadership teams responsible for the consolidation that is now the University of North Georgia has been invaluable to my own growth as a higher education leader,” Panu said. “The importance of earned trust, value of clear and frequent communication during difficult and stressful times, rediscovering the fundamental values that anchor us to higher education and help us stay the course, and a comprehensive view of all the parts needed for an institution to be successful are but a few examples of the lessons learned that are relevant to the role of a chancellor.”

He earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, and his master’s and doctorate in chemistry respectively at the University of Alabama and University of Georgia. He earned Kennessaw State University’s Distinguished Teacher Award. His chemistry research has largely focused on making new and better compounds. Passionate about bridging higher education and community, Panu has been actively involved in numerous organizations, including the Elachee Nature Science Center and Great Hall Chamber of Commerce as well as local Rotary and Kiwanis clubs.

A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Panu and his wife, Judith, have three children, Sylvain, Marc and Anna. His appointment is effective Aug. 1.

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