Former president ranks No. 1 for compensation

Former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg was the top paid former officer of a private U.S. university for the 2007-08 academic year, according to a report from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

From 2007 to 2008, Trachtenberg received more than $3.6 million in compensation from the University, The Hatchet reported in June. Trachtenberg – who served as president for 19 years – received a “one-time lump sum payment” from the University when he retired in 2007 that accounts for the high compensation, said Sarah Baldassaro, assistant vice president for communications.

Baldassaro said the payment can be broken down into two parts.

“The first component – a longevity bonus – was granted on an annual basis under his contract but was not payable until his retirement from the presidency,” Baldassaro said in an e-mail. She added that a “Compensation Committee” created this longevity bonus in order to encourage Trachtenberg to “stay the length of time the Board of Trustees believed necessary to bring about desired changes at the University.”

Trachtenberg said for the nearly 20 years he spent as University president, the Board of Trustees set aside funds which he would receive when he left the University. Trachtenberg said he used part of these deferred compensation funds to purchase a house in D.C. after he retired.

“Under my contract I was obliged to live in a university house as president,” Trachtenberg said in an e-mail. “When I came to D.C. in 1988 I wanted to buy a home of my own. The [board] said they would make it possible for me to get a house when I retired.”

The second component of Trachtenberg’s bonus came from sabbatical leave which he was eligible to take during his tenure, but did not utilize because “he did not want to interrupt his work as president,” Baldassaro said.

Behind Trachtenberg on the list is Nancy Dye, former president of Oberlin College, who served in the position for 13 years. Dye received $1,460,420 after she announced her retirement in 2007, $2.2 million less than Trachtenberg.

Trachtenberg said it is unfair to compare his listed salary to other former officials’ compensations listed by the Chronicle.

“One can not compare my situation to others unless all the data points are the same,” Trachtenberg said. “How many years did others serve? How good a job did they do? What issues did they have to confront? And so on… No two people or schools are exactly the same.”

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