The University of South Carolina welcomes President-elect Robert L. "Bob" Caslen Jr., who will serve as the 29th president of the university.
President-Elect at a Glance
|Name||Robert L. "Bob" Caslen Jr.|
|Most Recent Position||Senior counsel to the president and interim chief financial officer, University of Central Florida|
|Educational Background||A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Caslen holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Long Island University and a Master of Science degree in industrial engineering from Kansas State University.|
|Personal||Enjoys motorcycles and CrossFit training. Caslen is married to the former Shelly Pastin from Highland Falls, New York. They have three sons and four grandchildren.|
|Vision||“It’s important to edify, build up. That’s what leaders do — they build people up.”|
Robert L. “Bob” Caslen Jr., a retired lieutenant general and the former superintendent and president of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, has been named the 29th president of the University of South Carolina.
Caslen was chosen by the university’s Board of Trustees to lead the state's flagship university system, and will bring his commitment to inspiring and building leaders with character when he becomes the university president later this summer.
“I am coming to South Carolina because of my love of the next generation of men and women who are going to be the leaders and contributors in service to their communities,” Caslen says. “I want to give back to this next generation.”
Caslen was a popular leader with the cadets at West Point, who nicknamed the superintendent “Supe Daddy” and joined him for early-morning physical training workouts each Wednesday. His exercise regimen continues, with Caslen doing an hour of CrossFit-type training six days each week, beginning at 5:30 a.m.
During his time at West Point, the academy was recognized as the nation’s No. 1 public college by U.S. News and World Report and Forbes magazines. Through the establishment of Centers of Excellence at West Point, Caslen developed an integration between Army applied problem sets and West Point research and intellectual capital. He created the Army Cyber Institute to build skills and leaders, and he won the support of Army leadership and Congress to make more than $2 billion in capital improvements at the campus.
After a 43-year military career, Caslen retired from the Army in 2018. He then became the senior counsel to the president at the University of Central Florida with the task to drive organizational, regulatory and cultural change at UCF and served as interim chief financial officer.
Caslen believes in building diverse, inclusive teams as a way to get the best outcomes. His record includes a demonstrated commitment to diversity, and during his tenure at West Point he appointed the first woman to serve as the commandant of cadets, the first woman to serve as a dean at West Point and the first African American female cadet to serve as first captain of the Corps of Cadets.
"I am honored to be chosen to lead this great institution. I fully recognize the challenges the board addressed to get to this point, and I am grateful for their support and confidence," Caslen said. "I will work tirelessly to listen to all of our students, faculty, staff, board members, and all our constituents to understand their concerns and issues, and I will actively seek their advice."
All four of his grandparents were born in Italy, but the family name was shortened to Caslen after his family arrived at Ellis Island. Caslen’s father fought in World War II and later became a school principal until a family vacation to Vermont convinced him to purchase a ski lodge there. Caslen grew up in Vermont, where he worked in his family’s business and was on the high school ski and football teams. From there, he was recruited to play football at West Point.
“It was an interesting time in our country’s history. I graduated from high school in 1971. The Vietnam War was still going on. My high school teachers all found ways not to go to Vietnam. They were trying to talk me out of going to West Point. But I was attracted to the opportunities. I was attracted to this thing about being part of something bigger than myself,” he says.
He went to the academy, thinking if he didn’t like West Point after two years, he could leave without the service commitment.
“When I got down there, I found myself loving the camaraderie, the close-knit association among the students, and I decided to stay the four years, knowing I had a five-year commitment. I had absolutely no intent whatsoever to stay in the military after five years,” he says. “The reason I stayed in is I fell in love with the Army. It pulled on my heartstrings. I loved being around these young men and women. That brotherhood and sisterhood was about as close-knit as you could imagine.”
After graduation, he embarked on a military career that included stints as the chief of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq, where he was the senior military commander in Iraq after the drawdown of U.S. and allied forces in 2011. He had been stationed at the Pentagon in Washington during the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I remember looking at the Pentagon burning, and I realized life as we know it is going to change significantly,” he says. “A couple of months later, I was in Afghanistan.”
Along with his bachelor’s degree from West Point, Caslen holds a Master of Business Administration degree in finance from Long Island University and a Master of Science degree in industrial engineering from Kansas State University.
Caslen and his wife, Shelly, have been married for 42 years and they have three sons, all involved in public service. One is a firefighter and first responder in Savannah, Georgia; another is an FBI special agent stationed in Washington; and the third is a graduate of West Point and an Army captain. They have four grandchildren under the age of 7.