COLUMBIA — Moments after being named the new president of the University of South Carolina, Harris Pastides said he was ready to begin working to boost academics, promote research activities and launch an ambitious fundraising campaign.

The challenges facing the state and the university are not slowing down, Pastides said. "We're in a race to innovate and contribute to our state's well-being. … Speed matters."

The university's Board of Trustees voted unanimously Friday to hire Pastides, a USC insider, as the school's 28th president. The board chose Pastides over two female finalists for the post: Janie Fouke, former provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of Florida; and Geri Malandra, vice chancellor for strategic management for the University of Texas System. The university has never had a female president.

Pastides, 54, has served as the university's vice president for research and health sciences and executive director of the South Carolina Research Foundation since 2003. He began working at the university in 1998 as dean of the Arnold School of Public Health and an epidemiology professor.

Board Chairman Herbert Adams said, "We're delighted to have one of our own" serve as president.

Pastides worked closely with retiring USC President Andrew Sorensen, Adams said that in doing so, Pastides could lead the university in "a seamless transition."

Pastides will take over as university president Aug. 1. He said his priority will be to maintain the integrity and boost the value of a USC education at the main campus in Columbia and seven satellite campuses.

But he's aware how important it is that he be a successful fundraiser, a task that is becoming a large part of the job for university presidents across the country.

University officials said Pastides has a strong track record as a fundraiser.

Under his leadership, research funding and sponsored programs increased 69 percent since 2002, reaching a record $185.2 million for fiscal year 2007.

Pastides said he immediately would begin planning to launch an ambitious capital campaign. He's not daunted by the task, he said, because he breaks it down to daily and monthly goals.

Pastides also said he plans to promote university research activities, such as Innovista — a 500-acre research and innovation district in Columbia — and Health Sciences South Carolina — a collaborative effort between the state's research universities and hospitals.

Ray Greenberg, president of the Medical University of South Carolina, said he's pleased with the USC board's selection.

"Dr. Pastides knows our institution and he has demonstrated his ability to work with us very effectively. Where once there was a competitive relationship between USC and MUSC, today we are working hand in hand on many initiatives," Greenberg said.

He also said that under Pastides' administration, MUSC likely would have more opportunities to work closely with USC.

Pastides said USC has worked so closely with MUSC, especially in health sciences and bioengineering, that it feels like "a home away from home."

"The Charleston community can look forward to a greater (USC) presence and contribution to the greater Charleston area," Pastides said.

University spokesman Russ McKinney said Pastides will not have a formal contract, and the university still is working out some specific details of his compensation package. But, Pastides' annual salary will be about $530,000, McKinney said.

Pastides said he's ready to hit the ground running and has the energy for the job. Friends and colleagues told him he holds the two most important assets needed to succeed as a university president, he said. "I've got a great marriage, and I'm physically fit."

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or dknich@postandcourier.com.