By Megan Sexton, email@example.com, 803-777-1421
The University of South Carolina welcomes President-elect Michael Amiridis, who will serve as the 30th president of the university.
Michael Amiridis, the chancellor of the University of Illinois-Chicago since 2015, has been named the 30th president of the University of South Carolina.
Amiridis was unanimously selected Friday (Jan. 14) by the university’s Board of Trustees to lead the state's flagship university system.
The move is a homecoming for Amiridis, who spent more than two decades on campus in Columbia, serving as a chemical engineering professor, department chair, dean of the College of Engineering and Computing and the university's executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. He left the university to lead the Chicago institution in 2015.
“I’m excited and honored to return to the University of South Carolina as its next president,” Amiridis says. “Through academics, research and its vibrant culture, the university system is critically important to the people of South Carolina and to the state’s future. I feel privileged to be able to lead this great institution.”
Amiridis, 59, is a native of Greece who came to the United States to attend graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he earned his Ph.D. in chemical engineering in 1991. He then spent a few years in industry, working as a research engineer for W.R. Grace and Co., before arriving in Columbia in August 1994 as an assistant professor of chemical engineering.
His wife, Ero Aggelopoulou-Amiridis, and their children also have ties to the University of South Carolina. Aggelopoulou-Amiridis earned her master’s and doctoral degrees from the university, while their daughter, Aspasia, earned her bachelor’s degree in 2019 and their son, Dimitri, is a member of UofSC’s class of 2022.
President-elect at a glance
|Hometown||Kavala, a coastal town in northern Greece. U.S. citizen|
|Position||Chancellor of the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) since 2015|
|Educational background||Undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki in Greece in 1985; Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1991|
|Personal||He and his wife, Ero Aggelopoulou-Amiridis, have two children, Aspasia and Dimitri.|
|Ties to UofSC||Amiridis spent more than two decades in Columbia, serving as an engineering professor, dean of the College of Engineering and Computing and the university's executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. His wife and his children all have degrees from UofSC.|
Amiridis says he is committed to academic excellence and supporting research that is essential to South Carolina and beyond, while also increasing the diversity of the university’s student body, faculty and staff.
“When we're talking about academic excellence, I think the key is to ask the questions: Are we innovative enough in what we teach? Are we meeting the needs of our students where they are? How do we organize our degree programs? How do we mentor and guide our students, especially our first-generation and low-income students?”
Amiridis is a first-generation college student who earned his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki in 1985. His background offers him keen insight into the important role higher education can play in improving lives and society.
“We need to help (first-generation students) navigate the system. We need to have targeted services towards these students and keep in mind that the most important thing that we do to change the world and build the future — I will insist on this — our goal is to be building the future of the state of South Carolina. The most important thing that we have to do is to help the students from low socioeconomic backgrounds to advance through knowledge,” he says.
"(Industrialist and philanthropist Andrew) Carnegie said over 100 years ago that universities are ladders of social advancement. We want to make sure that our ladder works. I come from an institution that does this and is very proud of doing exactly this.”
During his tenure in Chicago, Amiridis focused on enhancing the student experience, engaging with diverse communities, raising UIC's national and international reputation, and creating a culture of entrepreneurship. UIC Is part of the University of Illinois college system and is home to one of the nation’s largest medical schools. It is the most comprehensive institution in Illinois, offering over 240 degree programs, and is the state’s flagship university in health sciences.
Under his leadership, the school saw six years of record campus enrollment, surpassing 34,000 students in fall 2021, while winning national accolades for attracting an increasingly diverse student population. Amiridis also completed a successful capital campaign that raised more than $750 million in donations for UIC.
His experience as a researcher and provost at South Carolina and as chancellor of UIC has helped him understand the important role research plays at universities and the need to compete for top grants and faculty. At UIC, he oversaw a 30 percent increase in research dollars over the past three years. At South Carolina, the university is already on strong research footing. In 2020, UofSC faculty garnered more than $279 million in sponsored awards.
“The research that is taking place at our universities is even greater now than it has ever been before. We are in international competition, in a global competition. And what we produce through our universities will define the global role of the American economy across the world,” he says. “Thirty years ago, we were almost running unopposed. Now, very strong investments have been made across the globe. And we need to compete in this area. And this is the role that our own institutions in particular have to play. This is a core component of our mission.”
He also has a strong commitment to diversity — of students, faculty and staff members.
As chancellor of UIC, he says his cabinet is one of the most diverse of any university in the country.
“There are five people of color in my cabinet of 10 people. There are women. They are only three or four that look like me and nobody sounds like me,” he says. “And it's extremely important because it's the diversity of opinion that matters when the cabinet sits together. And I'm very grateful, very grateful because in a number of cases they convinced me to do something that I was not convinced about, and they protected me this way. They protected the institution and they advanced the institution.”
While the University of South Carolina system graduates more African American students than any other college or university in the state, Amiridis believes more needs to be done to recruit a diverse pool of graduate students and faculty members.
“I'm very proud because the first African American who received a doctoral degree from the College of Engineering was my doctoral student, and he's now working here. The first female who had a doctoral degree in engineering was also my student. She is a faculty member at Davidson.”
Amiridis will start at South Carolina this summer. He replaces interim President Harris Pastides, who came back to the university in May 2021 after previously serving as president for more than a decade. Amiridis was South Carolina’s provost from 2009-2015, working alongside Pastides to elevate academics and scholarship at the university.
“The qualifications to be the next president of the university include higher education experience at a senior level, having ‘walked the walk’ in academic life, a commitment to issues of diversity and inclusion, expertise in budgeting and fundraising, taking joy in celebrating Gamecock Athletics and a deep understanding and love of South Carolina,” Pastides says. “In selecting Michael Amiridis, the board has found that person.”
Board of Trustees Chair C. Dorn Smith III said Amiridis is the right leader to elevate the entire university system.
“Today, we have chosen a scholar and administrator of the first order to lead our institution. Dr. Amiridis understands the university community and has a demonstrated track record of leading a large organization to new levels of success,” Smith said. “I wish to thank everyone in the university community who provided the board with valuable feedback during this important presidential search.”