University pays tribute to former president Sorensen
The University of South Carolina family remembered former president Andrew A. Sorensen with poignant stories and words of appreciation Tuesday (April 26) at a tribute service for the man who led the university from 2002 - 2008.
Sorensen, USC’s 27th president, died April 17 at his home in Ohio.
At Tuesday’s service at the Koger Center, about 400 members of the university and the Columbia communities came together to honor Sorensen’s legacy. He was remembered for improving the relationship between the university and the city of Columbia, his visionary leadership in developing the Innovista research campus and understanding the importance of creating a knowledge economy, and his commitment to inclusiveness and service to others.
Tommy Preston, former student-body president and a third-year law student, spoke of Sorensen’s love of students, even showing off an “Andy is my homeboy” T-shirt designed by students during Sorensen’s tenure.
“His greatest legacy in my eyes is his relationships with students. He loved his students,” said Preston, describing Sorensen sitting in the student section at basketball games or playing trumpet in the band at Carolina football games.
Preston, who worked for Sorensen the year before he started law school, said Sorensen taught him many lessons but admitted he never learned the art of tying a bow tie, Sorensen’s signature item of apparel.
“My heart is broken because I miss Dr. Sorensen terribly,” Preston said, calling Sorensen his teacher, mentor, friend and hero. “He taught us all to love and respect one another, to serve a cause bigger than ourselves and to dream big.”
Other university and community leaders, including I.S. Leevy Johnson, a USC law graduate, former Mayor Bob Coble and S.C. NAACP president Lonnie Randolph offered their memories of Sorensen.
Johnson said Sorensen loved being president of the University of South Carolina, “a school of higher education that took pride in its diversity – but, more importantly, in its inclusiveness.”
Dr. Harris Pastides, who succeeded Sorensen as USC’s president, spoke of his bond with Sorensen, which dated back to their days in the mid-1980s at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
“Every one of us here was part of Andrew Sorensen’s community circle,” Pastides said. “Whether family, friend, colleague or distant admirer, we were embraced, we were challenged and we were made better by his touch.
He also spoke of the need to continue Sorensen’s work – “work that Andrew advanced in very large measure, but it is work that no individual can complete alone. It is the work that is dedicated to the goals of individual excellence, progress for our communities and absolute equality and justice for all people all of the time.”
In honor of Sorensen’s love for bicycling, a bicycle brigade of about a dozen cyclists rode to the Koger Center from USC’s Horseshoe before the start of the service. Sorensen’s bicycle was also on stage for the tribute.