Top administrators out-earn Knapp

by Colleen Murphy | News Editor

Media Credit: Sophie McTear | Design Editor

GW's highest-paid employee last fiscal year was not who many would expect.

The University's chief financial officer Lou Katz out-earned University President Steven Knapp last fiscal year, when he made about $1.41 million. Katz has had three straight years of salary increases, but the more than 64 percent compensation jump stems from a deferred compensation deal that officials had signed when he came to GW in 1990, University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said. It was the first time in recent years that Katz made more than $1 million.

Robert Chernak, who served as vice president for Student and Academic Support Services for two decades before retiring in June 2012, received a compensation package totaling $2.08 million because of severance payments and a payout dating back to his hire in 1988, Csellar said. His bonuses in 2012 alone topped $1.5 million, according to the University's latest tax filings.

Both Katz and Chernak are bastions of former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg's administration. Chernak left his administrative post two years ago, while Katz has continued to run GW's financial operations.

Knapp’s total compensation swelled 16 percent to $1.28 million, putting his total pay over the $1 million mark for the fourth consecutive year. He has historically led D.C. university presidents in terms of pay, outpacing his peers at Georgetown and American universities.

Cary Nelson, the president of the American Association of University Professors, said administrators are more likely to secure lavish compensation packages because, nationwide, higher education officials are earning as much as business executives.

“It has been a trend,” he said. “It’s mirroring the incredible and obscene increases in the salaries of corporate CEOs so that universities are more and more imitating those employers.”

Last fiscal year was not the first time that other administrators earned more than Knapp. In fiscal year 2012, former Senior Associate Provost John "Skip" Williams made over $1 million with a severance package during his last year at GW.

Knapp received a base salary of $800,202, a 5 percent increase from the previous year, which marks the second time it has increased by that percentage. His bonuses bumped his total pay past the $1 million mark.

The Board of Trustees, which approves Knapp's total compensation based on benchmarks for GW’s academic and financial performance, has increasingly used fundraising as a key measure for Knapp’s success. That focus has sharpened as the University nears the launch of its first-ever $1 billion campaign.

The boost to Knapp’s total compensation shows the group’s continued trust in Knapp’s leadership, Board chairman Nelson Carbonell said.

“I think President Knapp's compensation reflects his more than three decades of higher education experience, track record of innovation and commitment to academic rigor,” Carbonell said.

Knapp has drawn praise from trustees for encouraging research since he arrived from Johns Hopkins University in 2007. He also began to require that deans spend at least 40 percent of their time fundraising.

Provost Steven Lerman, who oversees academics, admissions and student life as the University's second-in-command, received a compensation package worth $792,143 last fiscal year, a 5.7 percent increase from the year before.

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