Gift to WVU by Puskar to supplement salary of new president

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A gift from a now-deceased West Virginia University benefactor is one reason the school expects it will be able by June 30 to boost the pay of president E. Gordon Gee to that of his predecessor.

Before his death in 2011 at age 77, Milan Puskar, co-founder of Mylan Labs, created the Milan Puskar Presidential Chair endowment.

Established in 2009 through the WVU Foundation, it provides a $125,000 supplement to salary and benefits so the university can "recruit or retain a 'superstar' president and presidential development activities," the school said at the time the initiative was approved by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.

The yearly pay supplement was first used in July 2012 to bring the total compensation of then-president Jim Clements up to $775,000. He left WVU at the end of last year for the presidency of Clemson University.

Mr. Gee, who succeeded him in January, has been paid an annualized salary of $450,000 since taking the WVU post, but that income is due to be brought into line with what Mr. Clements was paid when Mr. Gee's new contract is finalized.

Those contract discussions are in their final weeks.

"It will be completed certainly by the end of June," said John Bolt, a university spokesman.

The size and complexity of WVU, the state's land grant university, were cited as reasons a supplement was necessary. The university has more than 32,000 students, 7,000 employees and a budget of nearly $2.5 billion.

Its president "is one of only about a dozen university presidents in the country who lead public land-grant research universities with comprehensive health sciences and statewide extension services," Drew Payne, then board of governors chairman, said when the supplement was approved. "That's a tremendous responsibility, and it takes someone with incredible vision, sound decision-making skills and an abundance of energy to lead such an extensive enterprise."

University officials said the supplement applied in 2012 helped bring Mr. Clements' total compensation package into line with that paid by such peers as Penn State University, Kentucky, Virginia Tech and Minnesota.

Mr. Puskar gave the university $22 million over the years. The university's football stadium is named for him as is the business school deanship.

Mr. Gee's total compensation of nearly $6.1 million during his final year as Ohio State University president -- most of it in deferred compensation and severance -- made him the top compensated nationally in The Chronicle of Higher Education's survey of what public university leaders were paid in fiscal year 2012-13. The survey was released last week.


Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1977 and on Twitter: @BschacknerPG.

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