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Ex-PSU president Graham Spanier tops list of public college executive salaries

Ex-PSU president Graham Spanier made the most of any public college executive in the 2011-12 fiscal year. (AP) Ex-PSU president Graham Spanier made the most of any public college executive in the 2011-12 fiscal year. (AP)

By Zac Ellis

Universities may experience budget cuts and other belt-tightening initiatives in the face of economic hardships, but many college presidents seem to be doing just fine.

According to an annual report released by the Chronicle of Higher Education, former Penn State president Graham Spanier received the highest total compensation of any executive from a public college in the 2011-12 fiscal year

Spanier, who was forced out at Penn State in November 2011 following the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal, pocketed $2.9 million during the 2011-12 fiscal year. The amount included $1.2 million in severance pay and $1.2 million in deferred pay on top of his $350,959 base salary.

In all, four public university presidents took home more than $1 million in total compensation: Spanier, Auburn's Jay Gogue ($2,542,865), Ohio State's E. Gordon Gee ($1,899,420) and George Mason's Alan G. Merten ($1,869,369).

Gee topped all presidents with a base salary of $830,439.

Jack Stripling, a Chronicle reporter who worked on the report, said there's much to be learned from seeing Spanier's compensation, especially given his tumultuous exit from Penn State. “The fact that Graham Spanier turns out to be the highest paid president in the country says something about the nature of compensation packages for people who leave under a cloud,” Stripling told the New York Times. “Severance agreements are often very lucrative.”

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