Chatham president Barazzone earns top dollar

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The president of Chatham University has made the list of 42 chief executives of private nonprofit colleges and universities earning more than $1 million in total compensation in 2011.

According to a report released Sunday night by the Chronicle of Higher Education, Chatham President Esther Barazzone earned $1.8 million in 2011, making her the eighth-highest-paid chief executive of a private nonprofit college or university in the United States.

Of that, $283,839 was base pay; the rest was from other types of reportable compensation, such as retirement packages. On base pay alone, she ranked 281st of 500 college presidents in the survey.

The $1 million-plus list grew from 36 in 2010 to 42 in 2011, an increase of about 17 percent. About a decade ago, such pay levels were rare.

The survey included 550 presidents at the 500 private nonprofit colleges and universities with the largest endowments in the United States, as reported to the U.S. Department of Education, and was based on federal tax documents from the 2011 calendar year, the most recent available.

PG graphic: Private college presidential pay
(Click image for larger version)

The Chronicle analyzes the pay of public university leaders in a separate survey.

The top total compensation at a private college or university was nearly $3.6 million -- including base pay of $918,000 -- for Robert Zimmer at the University of Chicago.

Presidents of more than two dozen religious institutions do not receive compensation.

Total compensation includes base pay; bonus and incentive compensation; other reportable compensation; retirement and other deferred compensation; and nontaxable benefits.

In 2011 among the schools surveyed, median total compensation -- the point at which half make more and half make less -- was $410,523, a 3.2 percent increase from $397,860 in 2010.

The median base salary increased at a slower rate -- 0.4 percent -- from $300,054 in 2010 to $301,299 in 2011.

The median calculations don't include presidents who served for only part of the year.

The highest base salary was $1.5 million, a partial-year payment to Anthony Marx, who left the presidency of Amherst College in 2011. His total compensation was nearly $1.6 million, ranking 11th.

In addition to her base compensation of $283,839, Ms. Barazzone received "other reportable compensation" of $1.25 million; retirement and other deferred compensation, $251,500; and nontaxable benefits, $25,390.

Her other reportable compensation represents the payout of retirement and deferred compensation that previously had been reported each year.

Deferred compensation plans are common and often require a president to stay until a certain date to receive the money. The amount is counted each year in total compensation and then counted again when it is paid out.

When Ms. Barazzone began her presidency in 1992, Chatham was in "precarious financial straits" and the college for many years could not offer a "compensation package, especially retirement funding, commensurate with what presidents of comparable institutions received at the time," said S. Murray Rust, chair of the Chatham trustees, in a statement.

After consulting with a national compensation authority, the Chatham board in 2006 began annually providing a package with an incentive component that included deferred payments that would not be available to Ms. Barazzone until and unless she stayed at Chatham through July 1, 2011.

She became vested in 2011 and took ownership of a retirement fund that had accumulated a value of $1.2 million. Her current contract runs to 2015.

Ms. Barazzone's annual base pay has remained the same at $308,103 from Nov. 1, 2006, through the fiscal year ending in June this year, said Bill Campbell, Chatham vice president of communications. The figure differs from the one on the federal tax forms because of pretax contributions and other adjustments.

Mr. Rust said, "For the past 20 years, Chatham is proud that we have been able to retain one of the longest serving and most productive presidents in the nation.

"As an example, in the years since 2006, Chatham was granted university status, has seen a 37 percent increase in student head count, achieved record fundraising years, received international recognition for our sustainability initiatives and is nearing completion of the first phase of construction on our innovative net zero campus, Eden Hall."

Chatham this fall has a head count of 2,170 undergraduate and graduate students.

Mr. Rust said the board is "delighted that our retirement funding package had the desired effect."

Education writer Eleanor Chute: or 412-263-1955.

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