Michael Amiridis smiles for the camera with Chicago skyline in background

Return to the roost

Michael Amiridis has many reasons to return to UofSC

Incoming University of South Carolina President Michael Amiridis will miss the University of Illinois Chicago, where he served as chancellor from 2015 until this summer. He is going to miss the city of Chicago, too: the arts, the culture, the people — not to mention the restaurants of Greektown, where he and his wife, Ero Aggelopoulou-Amiridis, often headed for a quick taste of home.

But Amiridis has zero misgivings about the new job. In fact, the former USC faculty member-turned-administrator is thrilled to be back on the campus where he cut his academic teeth, arriving as an assistant professor of chemical engineering in 1994 and working his way up the ranks: department chair, dean, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost.

He and the university’s next first lady are also thrilled to return to their old stomping grounds. The couple raised their children in Columbia and called the Capital City home for more than two decades, which is longer than they have lived anyplace else, including their native Greece.

“My hometown I left when I was 18,” says Amiridis, now 59. “We spent 21 years in Columbia. We have very strong connections with the faculty there, and with many friends in the community.”

USC is also where the couple’s children chose to study as undergrads. Their daughter, Aspasia, graduated with a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from the South Carolina Honors College in 2019. Their son, Dimitri, graduated in May with a degree in computer engineering, once again from the South Carolina Honors College. And then there’s the first lady herself, who earned two advanced degrees from the university before they moved to Chicago.

“So, this is the emotional component, but there’s alsothe professional component,” says Amiridis, smiling at the confluence of his dreams and ambition. “It’s a historic university. It’s a strong university. And there is an oppor­tunity to elevate the university further and to continue the work that was started, together with Harris, when I was the provost.”

Harris, of course, is former USC president and current interim, Harris Pastides. Amiridis worked hand-in-hand with the 28th president for six years as provost, and the two are good friends, but Gamecock faithful shouldn’t necessarily expect Pastides 2.0.

Everything that I know about working well together with faculty, staff and students from different backgrounds in different disciplines I learned at the University of South Carolina.

UofSC President Michael Amiridis

As the university’s 30th president, Amiridis brings his own distinct energy to campus. He will also bring his own brand of leadership, which he developed over a long career with collaborators at every level of the university, starting all the way back at the Swearingen Engineering Center, his first stop after leaving a private sector research job for a career in academia.

Amiridis may be the only member of his immediate family without a degree from the university — he’ll sometimes mention this as a funny aside — but the university has been central to his education as an administrator and leader.

“Everything that I know about higher ed I learned at the University of South Carolina,” he says. “Everything that I know about working well together with faculty, staff and students from different backgrounds in different disciplines,
I learned at the University of South Carolina.”

Twenty-one years at South Carolina’s flagship public university, plus seven more at UIC, have also taught Amiridis how to manage the resources of a large institution, how to balance competing interests, when and how to take calculated risks and the importance of being transparent. “At a university, you lead by example, and you lead by building consensus around certain ideas and priorities,” he says.

And at UIC, the results are tangible. See: six straight years of record enrollment, six straight Higher Education Excellence in Diversity awards from Insight into Diversity magazine and a student population that now exceeds 34,000. See: three straight years of record research funding that topped $450 million for the first time in 2021 and an increasingly robust health sciences enterprise. See: the construction of a new engineering center, a new student housing facility, the acquisition and rebranding of the John Marshall School of Law as the city’s first public law school and an ambitious $750 million capital campaign concluded this spring.

Amiridis is understandably proud of his successes at UIC, and he is excited about the future he has helped build there. He even talks about returning to Chicago for a ribbon cutting when one of the university’s current buildings-in-progress is completed. But he is equally proud of his past accomplishments at USC — “I have always been talking about the University of South Carolina, even once I was here,” he says — and his excitement about returning to the Palmetto State is palpable. ‘Leaving UIC is bittersweet because this university and this city embraced us for the last seven years,” he says, still smiling. “I wouldn’t give up this position for any place but one, South Carolina. It is home.”

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