Hopkins' Brody is 3rd in pay survey

U.S. college president rankings show he got nearly $2 million

November 12, 2007|By Gadi Dechter | Gadi Dechter,Sun reporter

The president of the Johns Hopkins University received nearly $2 million in pay and benefits in the 2006 fiscal year, making him the third-best-compensated college president in the country, according to an annual survey published today by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Dr. William R. Brody's compensation more than doubled since 2005 -- in large part because of a $920,000 check for deferred salaries dating to 1998, Hopkins officials said.

The survey's private-college data are based on tax returns covering July 2005 through June 2006, the most recent available for private universities. Public university data are from the fiscal year that ended in June 2007.

Among Maryland's public college leaders, the highest-paid was University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. Kirwan, who took home about $520,000 in pay and benefits, followed by University of Maryland, College Park President C. D. "Dan" Mote Jr., who collected about $430,000.

Pamela P. Flaherty, the chairwoman of Hopkins' board of trustees, said Brody's compensation is "more than fair and reasonable," given his responsibility over a multibillion-dollar operating budget and his status as one of the longest-serving university presidents in the country.

The weekly newspaper's annual survey of about 653 private colleges and 182 public universities reflects the rapidly rising pay of campus leaders. In the 2004 survey, Brody was the nation's highest-paid college administrator -- when he collected $897,786.

A president's total compensation package can include salaries, benefits and bonuses. Executives such as Brody are often required to defer some salary as an incentive to remain in their positions. Presidents also sometimes opt to defer their salaries for tax-planning purposes.

In Brody's case, his total compensation was $1,938,024, which included about $570,000 in base salary, $920,000 in deferred salaries, $300,000 from the university-affiliated medical system and $150,000 in benefits. The total compensation does not include money Brody received for service on corporate boards of directors.

The median total compensation of presidents of private research universities was $528,105, an increase of 37 percent over the previous five years, according to the survey. About 80 heads of private colleges made more than $500,000; 10 years earlier, three took home that amount or more, the Chronicle reported.

Among public colleges, the highest-paid president in the survey was David P. Roselle of the University of Delaware, who received about $875,000 in total compensation, followed by the heads of the University of Virginia and the University of Washington.

"If you're an elite or prominent public research university, you've probably got to be paying your chief somewhere near $700,000 a year, much more than in recent years," said Chronicle reporter Paul Fain, who contributed to the salary report. "And to be anywhere near the top, it seems like a minimum wage is pretty much $400,000."

Though huge pay packages for college presidents are sometimes criticized by faculty senates and labor unions, university officials say the compensation fairly reflects the enormous responsibilities college leaders have over hundreds or thousands of employees, and fundraising demands that typically turn the top jobs into round-the-clock positions with high burnout rates.

Hopkins' endowment has grown from nearly $983 million when Brody became president in 1996 to about $2.4 billion at the end of the 2006 fiscal year, according to a database maintained by the Chronicle.

In this year's tally, Brody was bested by the presidents of Northeastern University and Philadelphia University, who received about $2.9 million and $2.6 million, respectively, in total compensation.

And the Hopkins chief would have been pushed even further down the list if compensation of retiring presidents were included -- because large severance and retirement packages can skew the overall picture.

Donald E. Ross of Florida's Lynn University received more than $5 million in 2006 when he stepped down after 34 years there. And American University's Benjamin Ladner collected $4.3 million after being pushed out in 2005 amid claims that he excessively spent the college's money for personal use, according to the Chronicle.

Because retirement packages have often pushed departing executives to the top of the list in previous surveys, the weekly paper decided this year to separate from the general tallies those leaders who stepped down during the reporting period.

Also for the first time this year, the Chronicle surveyed the pay packages of leaders of the country's largest 68 community colleges. None of Maryland's two-year colleges or systems was large enough to make that list.

Despite the salary survey's popularity among higher-education insiders, some college presidents question its journalistic or public-interest value.

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