Harris Pastides spends his last day at University of South Carolina

University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides talks about his tenure, his successor and plans for retirement during an interview on July 31, his final day in office. Andy Shain/The Post and Courier 

COLUMBIA -- Former University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides will earn $1.8 million during his first five years of retirement as he works as a consultant and representative for the state’s largest college.

Meanwhile, new USC President Bob Caslen is working on a $650,000-a-year contract with few guarantees. His agreement has no fixed length and he could be let go at any time.

The 65-year-old former West Point superintendent said that he serves “at the will of the board.”

Contracts that can be ended when the board desires are typical for USC presidents, university trustees chairman John von Lehe said. Even Pastides’ retirement agreement that runs through mid-2024 is “at-will,” per a copy of his contract obtained by The Post and Courier.

But unlike Pastides’ contract, Caslen’s agreement does not run for a specific period of years.

Bob Caslen

New University of South Carolina President Bob Caslen speaks to reporters Monday, July 22, 2019, in Columbia. John A. Carlos II/Special to The Post and Courier

“Frankly, that is the way it should be, especially given the controversy surrounding my selection,” Caslen told The Post and Courier. “I will have to prove myself and I am perfectly fine with that.”

Caslen, a retired three-star Army general whose hiring led to protests on campus, succeeded Pastides on Thursday.

Caslen has been criticized for lacking credentials associated with major college presidents and comments he made during a forum that some found insensitive.

Before retiring after leading USC for 11 years, Pastides was a popular figure on campus for his constant interaction with students and won respect from alumni for backing massive construction projects and Gamecocks athletics.

Pastides is now working under a five-year, post-retirement contract that pays him a fraction of his compensation as president.

Pastides, 65, will earn $500,000 during his first year in retirement and $325,000 over the next four years, according to his contract. He reports to the board in the first year and then to the university president in the final four years of his agreement.

USC’s board can extend the contract with Pastides beyond 2024.

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Pastides receives office space, staff, professional dues, travel compensation and $15,000 in moving expenses. He also can attend university events “consistent with his status as a Distinguished President Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of the University,” the contract states.

He becomes fully vested in a life insurance policy by July 2021 if he is still working with USC.

Pastides needs board approval for any outside jobs.

If the board no longer wants him to serve as a school administrator, Pastides becomes a professor in the school of public health until 2024. He would receive $243,773 in annual pay. Pastides, an epidemiologist, was USC’s public health school dean for five years.

In his final year as president at USC, Pastides earned $1.1 million that included a $100,000 bonus for staying at the university through July 1.

Earning over $1 million, he has been one of the nation’s highest compensated public university presidents in recent years, according to data compiled by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

During the next five years, Pastides’ duties spelled out in his contract include aiding Caslen’s transition, consulting the board, assisting in fundraising and preparing a report with recommendations for improving the university system.

He also will chair the S.C. Institute of Medicine and Public Health that works on health care issues in the state and serve on boards that oversee Fulbright Scholar programs for the U.S. Department of State and two laboratories for the U.S. Department of Energy.

He will continue representing USC on a national public university program to graduate more science, technology and math teachers.

In an interview with The Post and Courier last week, Pastides said he expects to split time evenly between Columbia and his retirement home in Folly Beach, joking that his title of emeritus “means ‘formerly important.’"

He said he plans to stay in the background and not volunteer advice to Caslen.

“Be there for him, but, if the phone rings, it’s he calling me, not me calling him,” Pastides said. “Beyond that, I would like to continue to help students and faculty, but probably at the individual level, at the level of a mentor or adviser.”

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Columbia Bureau Chief

Andy Shain runs The Post and Courier's team based in South Carolina's capital city. He was editor of Free Times and has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Charlotte, Columbia and Myrtle Beach.

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