Chancellor’s start not so different from many UIC students
UIC chancellor-elect Michael Amiridis doesn’t have a lot of free time, but when he finds a few moments, he likes to work on his stamp collection.
“I have collected thousands since I was a kid,” he said. “Working with them gives me some completely worry-free time that I can blank my mind once every month for a half an hour. It’s an escape.”
Amiridis, whose appointment was approved by university trustees Thursday, officially joins UIC March 16. For more than 20 years, he has been a faculty member at the University of South Carolina, where he is executive vice president for academic affairs and provost.
His story mirrors that of many UIC students — he’s a first-generation college student who came to the U.S. to pursue higher education. Amiridis, 52, was born and raised in Kavala, a coastal town in northern Greece. His father worked for a telecommunications company and his mother stayed at home to raise their two sons.
Amiridis completed his undergraduate studies in chemical engineering 100 miles away from his hometown, in the coastal town of Thessaloniki. His graduate studies took him further from home, to the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he received a Ph.D. in chemical engineering.
“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.”
He and his wife, Ero Aggelopoulou-Amiridis, have been married 24 years. They lived within walking distance in Kavala and met when he became her tutor; he was in college and she was in high school. She later joined him at the University of Wisconsin. She has a bachelor’s in mathematics, a master’s in art history and doctoral degree in philosophy.
“When my wife and I were in Wisconsin, we drove down to Chicago for a day, once a year, to go to the Art Institute, look at the Magnificent Mile and then we’d end up in Greektown for a nice meal that you couldn’t find in Wisconsin,” he said.
They have two children, Aspasia, 17, who is deciding on a college next fall to study life sciences, and Dimitri, 15, who will likely follow in his father’s footsteps as an engineer.
“He looks and acts like an engineer,” Amiridis said.
Amiridis said he is excited about the move from South Carolina to Chicago. “Chicago is a global city,” he said. “If you go outside the United States and ask someone to name some U.S. cities, Chicago will be named every time.”
UIC also stands out, he said, because of its mission. “It has an urban, research and public mission,” he said. “Those three components make it unique. Its demographics are very diverse, and that’s one of the strengths of the university. And it’s very diverse in terms of its academic nature.”
Once he’s here, Amiridis hopes to find time to explore the city. “It’s an exciting prospect, but it may be a mirage, given all of my responsibilities,” he said with a laugh.