On July 1, 2021, Dr. Bennie L. Harris became the fifth chancellor to lead the University of South Carolina Upstate, where he fulfills his purpose to inspire and develop young people to change the world. He believes higher education offers opportunities for people to experience possibilities and achieve their greatest aspirations.
A native of the Mississippi Delta farming community of Deeson, his parents strongly emphasized that education was the key to economic, professional, and social mobility and encouraged him to pursue opportunities for leadership at a young age. He accepted a high school teacher’s recommendation to explore his abilities by attending Mississippi State University instead of a smaller institution, and this decision propelled him first to a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial engineering, then to a Master of Business Administration in strategic marketing at Washington State University and a Ph.D. in strategic educational marketing from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
He served in increasingly responsible positions at Washington State University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, DePaul University, Lipscomb University, and, immediately prior to his appointment at USC Upstate, at Morehouse School of Medicine beginning in 2014. At MSM, Dr. Harris served as senior vice president for Institutional Advancement. Dr. Harris co-chaired the institution’s five-year strategic plan and served as a vital member in developing the school’s Leadership Academy, a program designed to promote leadership among faculty and staff. He dramatically elevated the school’s fundraising outcomes, launching a $225 million comprehensive campaign, and growing fundraising income to $235 million over seven years.
Since moving to the Upstate of South Carolina, Dr. Harris has been appointed to serve on the boards of several civic organizations, including the Spartanburg Academic Movement, Ten at the Top, OneSpartanburg, The Charles Lea Center Administrative Board, United Way of the Piedmont, the Franklin School, and NCAA Big South Conference. He is also a member of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce Accelerate Steering Committee and Prisma Health Medical Scholars program.
Dr. Harris is married to his college sweetheart, Frankie A. Harris. The Harrises have three adult children: Bria, Bennie II, and Branden.