College president millionaires club grows with Chicago's Zimmer atop list

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

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Robert Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago, drew compensation of $3.36 million in 2011, topping a list of 42 private college leaders who made more than $1 million.

The millionaires club grew 17 percent from 36 in 2010, according to a survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education. A review of 550 private college presidents found that the median total compensation for the leaders of the nonprofit institutions was $410,523 in 2011, a 3.2 percent increase from the previous year.

Zimmer, a mathematician hired as president of the University of Chicago in 2006, saw his total compensation more than double from the previous year largely because of one-time deferred compensation payments earned over several years, according to the school. His base pay rose to $917,993 in 2011 from $893,254 a year earlier, according to the Chronicle.

"Bob Zimmer's compensation reflects the high degree of confidence the board has in his leadership at a crucial moment in the university's history," Andrew Alper, chairman of the university's board of trustees, said in an e-mailed statement.

The two other most-compensated leaders also had their earnings boosted by deferred payments used to reward longevity in the job. Joseph Aoun, president of Northeastern University in Boston, was second on the list, at $3.12 million in 2011, including a $2 million retirement benefit that will be paid later, said Kara Shemin, a spokeswoman. The previous year, Aoun had compensation of $1.07 million, including base pay of $652,161

Dennis Murray, head of Marist College, was third on the list with total compensation of $2.69 million, which included a payout from a deferred retirement plan, according to Greg Cannon, a spokesman for the school in Poughkeepsie, New York. He earned $702,951 the previous year, including a base salary of $431,050, the Chronicle surveys show.

"It really was an anomaly," said Cannon regarding the increase in Murray's compensation in 2011.

Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University in New York, was the highest-paid president in the Ivy League in 2011 and fourth-highest overall with compensation of $2.33 million, including a base of $988,668.

"President Bollinger has succeeded in raising Columbia to a new plateau, and his compensation appropriately reflects this," Bill Campbell, chairman of the university's trustees, said in an e-mailed statement.

Drew Gilpin Faust, president of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was paid $899,734, including a base of $720,441, 54th on the Chronicle's list.

The Chronicle uses private college tax filings to compile the annual compensation survey. It separately surveys public universities and most recently found that four of the institutions paid their presidents more than $1 million in 2012.