Busy first day Monday for UIC’s new chancellor
Monday will be the first day on the job for new chancellor Michael Amiridis — and it will be a busy one.
Amiridis will barely have time to unpack. One of the first events on his calendar is a morning Unity Breakfast for the Obama Presidential Library bid with representatives of UIC, University of Chicago, the community and the city. Then he’ll attend a press conference on technology innovation by Sen. Dick Durbin at 1871, the hub for digital startups, before he hosts a lunch meeting with UIC student leaders.
Amiridis, 52, comes to UIC from the University of South Carolina, where he was provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. He joined South Carolina’s flagship campus in 1994 as professor of chemical engineering and served as department head and dean of engineering before becoming provost in 2009.
“His talents quickly moved him up the ladder of leadership,” University of Illinois President Bob Easter said when he introduced Amiridis to the campus community Dec. 18. “He has a proven record of building academic and research excellence and a clear vision of the key role that public universities play in driving progress and economic growth.”
As executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at South Carolina, Amiridis oversaw all academic functions on the Columbia campus and its four, two-year regional campuses. He shared responsibility for coordinating all budget and capital planning functions at the university, which has more than 32,000 students and 15 colleges and schools, including medicine and law.
As provost, Amiridis created an “academic dashboard” that compared University of South Carolina to peer institutions in key areas such as enrollment, research funding, graduation rates and student-faculty ratios.
He also continued his research, which has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the private sector. He studies catalysts, substances that can accelerate chemical reactions without reacting themselves, on a nanoscale. His work has practical applications related to energy, pollutants and auto emissions control.
“We need to find technological solutions to the problems that we face environmentally. That’s something I’m passionate about,” said Amiridis, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Amiridis’ personal story mirrors that of many UIC students — he’s a first-generation college student who came to the U.S. to pursue higher education. He was born and raised in Kavala, a coastal town in northern Greece. After completing his undergraduate studies in chemical engineering at Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki, he left Greece to earn a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
“Going from Greece to Wisconsin was a cultural shock, a weather shock,” he said. “It was a huge difference for me at the age of 23.”
That Amiridis has a sense of humor was evident at the announcement of his appointment, when he joked about his “distinct Southern accent” and suggested subtitles would be forthcoming.
At his meeting with the search committee, “he really raised the energy level in the room,” said Jerry Krishnan, a member of the committee and associate vice president for population health sciences in the Office of the Vice President for Health Affairs.
Amiridis and his wife, Ero Aggelopoulou-Amiridis, have been married 24 years. They lived in the same town; they met when he was in college and she was in high school. She has a bachelor’s in mathematics, a master’s in art history and doctoral degree in philosophy.
They have two children, Aspasia, 17, who will attend college next fall, and Dimitri, 15.
“I’m honored, and at the same time I’m very humbled, to be selected as the new leader of the University of Illinois at Chicago, the model of a public, urban, research university in this country and an institution that is located in a most vibrant global city,” Amiridis said after Easter’s introduction Dec. 18.
“I believe with its rich history of success in high quality education, in the creation and application of new knowledge, and with its unique strengths in the health sciences and in community engagement, access and inclusion, UIC is well-positioned for the future.”