Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Wvu's Gee Was Top Earner in Nation $6M at Ohio State Heads 2013 Listing

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Wvu's Gee Was Top Earner in Nation $6M at Ohio State Heads 2013 Listing

Article excerpt

The $450,000 in annualized salary that E. Gordon Gee makes as West Virginia University's president may strike some people in that state as a pretty comfortable sum on which to live.

Even so, it's a pittance next to the $6.1 million -- most of it in deferred compensation and severance -- that Mr. Gee made the previous 12 months during his final year as Ohio State University's president, according to a just-released survey of presidential pay by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The $6,057,615 that Mr. Gee, 70, made in fiscal year 2012-13, including $851,303 in base pay, made him the highest compensated that year of any public campus leader in the nation, The Chronicle reported.

In fact, no public university president in the survey's history has received as much in one year.

Released Sunday, The Chronicle report noted that most public campus leaders made far less in 2012-13, with median compensation totaling $478,896 and median base pay totaling $403,496. But The Chronicle also said the number of million-dollar-plus earners continues to grow, and that Mr. Gee's large payout at the end of his tenure reflects a pattern at top-tier universities.

The three highest-paid individuals surveyed "all earned hundreds of thousands of dollars on their way out the door of their institutions," said Sara Hebel, a senior editor at The Chronicle. "Their pay packages speak to how ending a well-paid presidency often itself comes at a high cost to colleges."

That's true even when the departures are abrupt.

For instance, Mr. Gee abruptly announced his retirement from Ohio State last year amid controversy that included remarks about Catholics. The previous year, the highest earner in The Chronicle's public college survey at $2.9 million was former Penn State University president Graham Spanier, who departed in November 2011 amid fallout from the Jerry Sandusky sexual assault scandal on campus.

Mr. Gee was president emeritus of Ohio State last fall when it was announced he would return to WVU, which decades earlier gave him his first presidency.

In a statement issued on his behalf Friday in response to The Chronicle survey, Mr. Gee said:

"I don't work as a university president for the salary. Those are set by boards. My service as a university president is truly a calling, and in the case of West Virginia University, it is a way of paying forward for the opportunities I was provided as a young president at the age of 36."

Mr. Gee has been in office since January, and a new contract in July is expected to pay him comparably to the $775,000 his predecessor, Jim Clements, received. Of that sum, $125,000 will be paid by the WVU Foundation through a donor-established fund, foundation and WVU spokesmen said.

That income still is less than what Mr. …

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