Bennie L. Harris (’95 MBA) is the first Black chancellor at the University of South Carolina Upstate and the fifth chancellor since the institution was established in 1967. His formal investiture ceremony took place in April. He assumed the role in July 2021.

“I am humbled to serve as the first African American chancellor of USC Upstate,” Harris says. “I recognize that I stand on the shoulders of so many great people and that I embody the aspirations and hopes of so many, particularly individuals of color. And I look forward to all the great things we will accomplish to advance education for all that inspires a thriving and just society.”

Bennie L. Harris in gray suit and blue-green tie
South Carolina Upstate Chancellor Bennie L. Harris (Courtesy USC Upstate)

Harris is a former director for the Center of Human Rights at Washington State University and served in leadership positions at Lipscomb University, DePaul University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Morehouse School of Medicine before coming to USC Upstate in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

A native of the Mississippi Delta farming community of Deeson, Harris also earned a bachelor of science in industrial engineering from Mississippi State University and a doctorate in strategic educational marketing from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Today, he serves on the boards of numerous civic organizations, including the United Way of the Piedmont and the NCAA Big South Conference. He’s married to his college sweetheart, Frankie A. Harris, former assistant director of the Women’s Resource Center at WSU. She received WSU’s Distinguished Volunteer Service Award, Faculty Award, and the President’s Excellence Award.

The Harrises were cofounders of the Black Orientation to Leadership Development Conference and the African American Women’s Conference at WSU. They have three adult children: Bria, Bennie II, and Branden.