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Gee’s $1.9M salary 3rd among U.S. public colleges

Fired Penn State president ranked No. 1 due to deferred pay, severance.

Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee was knocked off the top spot on the list of highest paid public university presidents but is well positioned to regain the number one post in the coming year, according to a survey released Sunday by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Gee’s $1.9 million pay package in the 2011-2012 fiscal year was below the $2.9 million paid out to former long-time Penn State University President Graham Spanier and the $2.54 million paid to Auburn University President Jay Gogue, the survey found.

Gogue came to the end of a five-year contract and was eligible for a longevity payout while Spanier received $2.4 million in deferred compensation and severance pay when Penn State fired him in November 2011 for his handling of the child sexual abuse case involving assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

“The reward structure for president pay has a lot to do with longevity. We see people at the end of their careers very well taken care of, regardless of how that career ends,” said Chronicle senior reporter Jack Stripling. “There is no greater example of that than Graham Spanier.”

Gee, who is on his second tour as OSU’s chief executive, is paid more than double what any other Ohio public university president makes, according to The Chronicle. Not including Gee, the average total pay among Ohio’s nine largest public universities was $572,292 last year.

And Gee’s compensation package went up for the current fiscal year. In November 2012, OSU trustees rewarded Gee with a 3 percent pay hike and a $333,812 bonus, boosting his total compensation to $2.14 million.

Stripling described Gee as “the ultimate Teflon president” who is adored by his board of trustees and popular with students.

“In a weird way, he is almost insulated by the number of gaffes and controversies he has endured. It makes it seem like the next thing that comes along can’t be that bad,” Stripling said.

At Ohio State, Gee oversees a $5 billion a year operation with 65,000 students and 40,000 employees but his tenure has not been without missteps. Last year, the Dayton Daily News detailed how Gee has spent more than $7.7 million since October 2007 on travel, housing, parties and entertainment. Gee is afforded up to 100 hours a year in private jet travel and lives in a 9,600-square-foot university-owned, fully staffed mansion where he throws lavish parties and dinners.

Gee’s compensation package outstrips pay to presidents at what The Chronicle calls similar colleges. OSU’s comparable colleges include the University of Washington-Seattle, University of Texas at Austin, University of Florida, University of Georgia and University of Wisconsin.

The average president pay among those five was $686,281 while the national average was $440,000, the survey found.

The annual survey analyzed pay packages at 191 public research institutions with enrollments of more than 10,000.

Just four public university presidents are above the $1 million mark but 36 private college presidents earned more than $1 million in 2010, according to The Chronicle. In 2007-08, Gee was the first public university president to top $1 million.

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