Bennie Harris named USC Upstate Chancellor

Published on Friday, March 12, 2021

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Bennie L. Harris, Ph.D., has been named Chancellor for the University of South Carolina Upstate.

Bennie L. Harris, Ph.D., has been named Chancellor for the University of South Carolina Upstate.


Bennie L. Harris, Ph.D., has been named Chancellor for the University of South Carolina Upstate following the UofSC Board of Trustees approval today. 

Harris serves as senior vice president for Institutional Advancement at the Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) in Atlanta, a position he’s held since 2014. Harris will assume leadership of USC Upstate on July 1.

"I am proud to welcome Dr. Bennie Harris as the new chancellor of the University of South Carolina Upstate,” stated UofSC System President Bob CaslenRobert Caslen, in the media release. “Dr. Harris has a strong record of leadership and service, and I look forward to working alongside him as we continue to pursue excellence in academics and increase access and affordability to higher education in South Carolina.”

Harris becomes USC Upstate’s seventh chancellor, succeeding Brendan Kelly, Ph.D., who served from 2017-2020. J. Derham Cole, Jr., is interim chancellor.

"I am excited about the opportunity to lead an exceptional regional public institution that is well-respected, diverse, mission relevant and located in a region that offers unlimited partnerships," stated Harris. "Upstate’s strategic plan outlines compelling objectives that are important in transforming the lives of young people and the Upstate region. I have always valued the importance of education, in not only improving my life and that of my family, but in building a community of economically and socially healthy, prosperous people.

“Without debate, external funding from philanthropic and other sources, including state and federal grants, will differentiate USC Upstate and position it for greatness,” stated Harris. “As chancellor, I will play an integral role in identifying and acquiring resources to achieve Upstate’s vision. I believe strongly that growing USC Upstate’s endowment over the next five to ten years is necessary and achievable.”

"Working with our partners at Academic Search, we attracted an incredibly talented pool of candidates for this position," stated Pam Steinke, Ph.D., USC Upstate’s vice provost and associate vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, and chair of the Search Committee. "We had well over a hundred applicants and very strong finalists. We are delighted to have been able to present such a qualified slate of candidates to President Caslen, and are equally delighted with his choice of Dr. Harris."

Before joining Morehouse, Harris was vice president for Development and Alumni Relations at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., from 2007-2014. Harris provided strategic leadership in all areas of development, grants management, and alumni relations to include corporate, foundation and government relations, major and planned gifts, annual giving, donor stewardship and advancement services. Under Harris's direction, fundraising at Lipscomb increased by 332% within four years, climbing to $32.2 million in FY2012 compared with $9.7 million in FY2009.

"Concurrently, growing student enrollment will position the University to become one of the leading student-centered universities in the region, stated Harris. "By working with the provost, academic leadership and key institution stakeholders, I will continue Upstate’s commitment to growth by improving academic programs, creating programs that respond to new employment needs, deepening the impact of service, adding new facilities, renovating and adapting existing spaces to emerging technologies and methods, and expanding the permanent resources necessary for long-term service and success.”

Harris’s professional experience also includes executive administrative positions at DePaul University in Chicago, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. He has served as faculty throughout his career, focusing on courses in management, servant leadership and strategic marketing.

A native of Rosedale, Miss., Harris earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from Mississippi State University; a Master of Business Administration from Washington State University; and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is married to Frankie Andrea Harris and they have three adult children, Bria, Bennie II, and Branden.



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