Nine months after Jane Upshaw announced she was retiring as chancellor of the University of South Carolina Beaufort, the school has someone to fill her shoes.
Al M. Panu has been tapped to take over as chancellor starting Aug. 1, becoming only the second person to hold that position at the branch campus. USC President Harris Pastides announced Panu's appointment Friday afternoon.
Panu brings 15 years of higher-education leadership experience to the roughly 1,800-student branch campus.
"I was thoroughly amazed at the level of engagement and support shown by the community toward the university," Panu said in a Friday release. "I am very honored to have the opportunity to serve as the next USCB chancellor as we continue to expand our efforts to provide a first-rate, world-class higher education opportunity to the Lowcountry region of our state."
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Panu, 58, started his career as a chemistry professor at Kennesaw College in Georgia before joining Gainesville State College in 2007 as a chairman of the Division of Science, Engineering and Technology. He was later named dean of the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in 2010 and vice president for academic affairs in 2011.
In 2013, he was named senior vice president for university affairs at the University of North Georgia, where he served on the leadership teams responsible for the consolidation of Gainesville State College and North Georgia College and State University.
At UNG, he oversaw the Gainesville, Oconee and Cumming campuses and guided many of the school's academic and support programs. Under his leadership, enrollment increased at all three campuses.
Panu said it was USCB's growth in recent years and vision for the future that attracted him to the chancellor spot.
In her 30 years at USCB -- 12 of them as chancellor -- Upshaw helped the school become a four-year baccalaureate institution as well as grow the school's enrollment, academic offerings, sports programs and physical campus.
Many students and staff members -- including those on the search committee -- said they hoped to find someone with Upshaw's spirit of taking risks and familiarity with the student body. They also said they wanted a chancellor with his or her own flair.
Pastides said he believes Panu is just the man to do it.
"It is critical that we make the right choice for USCB to ensure the momentum of growth continues, and I believe Dr. Panu is the right person to lead us into the next era at Beaufort," Pastides said. "While Chancellor Upshaw will certainly be a tough act to follow, I know Dr. Panu will earn the friendship and trust of the community as we continue to build a university in which we are increasingly proud."
Panu was chosen from among four finalists, narrowed down from more than 100 applicants, after completing campus visits and interviews at USCB in April and May.
Beyond the classroom, Panu has said he is passionate about maintaining close ties with the community and has been involved in numerous organizations, including the Elachee Nature Science Center and Great Hall Chamber of Commerce as well as local Rotary and Kiwanis clubs.
A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Panu and his wife, Judith, have three children, Sylvain, Marc and Anna.