Pastides leads students in Gamecocks chant
For 11 years, University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides has stood before more than hundreds of thousands of soon-to-be Gamecock alumni.
Friday and Saturday, Pastides stood inside Colonial Life Arena, clad in a garnet and black robe addressing thousands of USC students for his last graduation as president.
“This is the hardest commencement address I ever had to write,” Pastides said. “These have been the best 11 years of my life.”
Pastides’ farewell commencement speech focused on the theme of moving on.
“You’ve made me not only a better president, but a better person,” Pastides said. “Finally moving on is hard. It’s hard for you and it’s hard for me.”
At the conclusion of his Friday afternoon and Saturday morning speeches, the crowds gave him standing ovations.
This spring, USC graduated 8,075 students from all eight of its campuses, 6,378 of which graduated from the school’s main campus, USC spokesman Jeff Stensland said in an email. Since Pastides has been president, he has given 181 commencement speeches and conferred degrees to 117,662 students, Pastides said during the commencement speech.
The university awarded several posthumous degrees to students who died during their senior years. Among those was Evan Gaines, a USC Upstate student who was found shot to death in Spartanburg, and Samantha Josephson, who was killed after getting in a car she mistakenly thought was her Uber. Josephson’s posthumous degree was given to her family in private, Stensland said.
“He’s...one of a kind,” said Andrew Ashmore, who graduated Friday with a degree in finance and global supply chain, said of Pastides.
Rob Harley, who also graduated Friday with a business administration degree, said one of his fondest memories of Pastides was when USC’s men’s basketball team went to the Final Four in 2017, Pastides was hanging out with students as they jumped in the water fountain in front of Thomas Cooper library.
“People like that are hard to replace,” Harley said.
Pastides, who took over for Andrew Sorensen in 2008, will officially retire on July 31. The school has named Brendan Kelly as interim president starting August 1 while the board of trustees continues the search for the school’s next president.
During Pastides’ time at USC, he guided South Carolina’s flagship school through the Great Recession, led a campaign that raised over $1 billion for the school and increased system-wide enrollment by 26 percent.
“I think he’s a stand-up man,” said Constance Campbell, who graduated Friday with a master’s degree in accounting. “Everyone is sad that he’s leaving and making comments about how much he has done for this university.”
Whomever takes over after Pastides will be faced with managing rising tuition costs, paying down the school’s debt, increasing the percentage of in-state students, finding $200 million to move the medical school and improving student safety in Five Points.
Pastides has been popular with students. Often seen stopping on campus to take selfies with students and driving around in the school’s Mini Cooper holding “mini conversations” with athletes, famous alumni and more.
“I wish I could take you all for a ride in my Mini,” Pastides told graduates Friday and Saturday.
Pastides hasn’t even left campus yet and he already has a building named after him. On Thursday, the board of trustees officially changed the name of the alumni center, located at 900 Senate St., to Pastides Alumni Center, Stensland said.
“You’re a student or a president for a short time, but you’re a Gamecock for a lifetime,” Robert Dozier, a board of trustees member and president of the MyCarolina Alumni Association, said during Saturday’s ceremony.
Here’s a breakdown of how many degrees were awarded, by campus in alphabetical order, according to Stensland:
- 324 bachelor’s degrees
- 14 master’s degrees
- 246 bachelor’s degrees
- 4340 bachelor’s degrees
- 188 law degrees
- 178 medical degrees
- 106 pharmacy degrees
- 1,566 graduate degrees, certificates and doctorate degrees
- 99 associate degrees
- 177 associate degrees
- 119 associate degrees
- 63 associate degrees
- 645 bachelor’s degrees
- 10 master’s degrees