Chronicle of Higher Education - web daily - November 22, 1999
8 Private-College Presidents Earned More Than $500,000 in 1997-98 By STEPHEN BURD
The presidents of eight private colleges earned more than $500,000 in pay and benefits in 1997-98, and 13 others topped $400,000, a Chronicle survey has found. All told, 61 presidents -- about 13 per cent of those in the survey -- earned more than $300,000. Those findings make 1997-98 the most lucrative year for college presidents since The Chronicle began tracking executive compensation at private colleges in 1991-92.
The rise has been rapid: In 1995-96, 38 presidents earned at least $300,000. In 1993-94, only 25 did. And while presidents at large research and doctorate-granting universities remain the best-paid over all, the pay of presidents at smaller, liberal-arts colleges is creeping up as well.
This year, for the first time, the two highest-paid presidents were at a liberal-arts college and a master's-level university. Special payments given to Howard J. Burnett of Washington and Jefferson College, and Orley R. Herron of National-Louis University, as each was leaving office catapulted the two to the top of The Chronicle's survey.
In 1997-98, presidents at seven liberal-arts colleges earned more than $300,000 each, and 20, in all, earned at least $250,000. In 1996-97, only two earned more than $300,000, and 10 earned at least $250,000. Thirty-one presidents at master's-level universities earned at least $250,000 in 1997-98, compared with 23 in 1996-97.
The Chronicle's data come from the federal tax returns filed by 475 private colleges and universities for 1997-98, the most recent available. The Internal Revenue Service Form 990 provides a window into the finances of tax-exempt organizations, including their expenditures, sources of revenue, and the compensation of their highest-paid people. It is the best public source of financial information available on private colleges.
The two top earners in The Chronicle's survey had long tenures leading their campuses. But while Mr. Burnett, of Washington and Jefferson, was awarded a hefty retirement package in appreciation of his years of leadership, Mr. Herron, of National-Louis, got his severance package as an inducement to resign.
Mr. Burnett left Washington and Jefferson in June 1998, after 28 years as president, with a compensation package that totaled $1,082,624, making him the highest-paid president in the country that year. The college's beneficence comprised several parts, said Duane L. Lantz, vice-president for business and finance. Mr. Burnett received his regular salary of $223,100 and $29,951 in benefits, plus $242,000 for one year's sabbatical leave while the college searched for his successor. The remaining $587,573 of the package was given mostly for exemplary service.
Mr. Herron left National-Louis in October 1997, after more than 20 years as president and not a day too soon, college officials and faculty members said privately. Neither John A. Jeffries, chairman of the Board of Trustees, nor Christian Anderson, chief spokesman for the university, would comment on Mr. Herron's departure or his earnings. But some other administrators and faculty members privately said Mr. Herron was widely blamed for the financial difficulties in which the institution found itself in the final years of his presidency.
Those sources said he had to be persuaded to resign, only a month after insisting in a speech to faculty members that he planned to stay indefinitely. Mr. Herron did not return telephone calls last week.
His total reported compensation for 1997-98 was $639,694, with $350,090 in pay and $289,604 in benefits. University officials said the sum included retirement payments and a severance package, which will be paid out over time. They refused to provide more details.
The third, fourth, and fifth top earners in 1997-98 were also among the five highest-paid presidents the previous year. Torsten N. Wiesel, president of Rockefeller University, dropped from the top spot in 1996-97 to No. 3 in 1997-98, with pay of $350,000 and benefits of $205,864, for a total package of $555,864, about $9,000 more than he received in 1996-97.
Next was L. Jay Oliva, of New York University, with a total compensation of $551,372.
The fifth spot went to Judith Rodin, president of the University of Pennsylvania, who received $529,677 in pay and $18,697 in benefits, for a total of $548,374.