Knox College President Roger Taylor takes his goal of fiscal responsibility right down to his own paycheck.
In 2008, Taylor received $199,897 in total benefits from the college. This was $35,436 less then his counterpart at rival Monmouth College and millions less than the richest private college president in the United States, Gerald Turner of Southern Methodist University, who received $2,774,000, according to 2008 tax return forms found on guidestar.org.
“That’s a million bucks over 10 years that the institution has avoided paying due to his generosity,” Vice-President for Finance and Administrative Services Tom Axtell said. The million-dollar estimate comes from the thought that around $300,000 would be a more reasonable salary in Axtell’s mind.
Axtell doesn’t believe other college presidents’ pay is as far out of line as it may seem.
“The presidential salaries are most highly correlated with the endowment value,” Axtell said. “But I can’t comment on the multi-million dollar [presidents].”
According to a U.S. News report, in 2009 Knox’s endowment was $57,550,359 and Monmouth’s endowment was $58,654,024. Southern Methodist University had an endowment of $1,032,262,000. Grinnell College’s endowment tops SMU with $1,076,249,000, but their president in 2008, Russell Osgood, made only $561,919.
In a Nov. 2010 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education entitled Compensation of 30 Private-College Presidents Topped $1-Million in 2008, a majority of the top earners were retiring presidents.
Both Taylor and Axtell stated that Taylor would not be leaving the school with a large piece of the endowment as a going away gift.
“The college and I both contributed to TIAA-CREF,” Taylor said. TIAA-CREF is a basic retirement plan for higher education. “I got a bit of money in that, but it’s not material… It’s peanuts.”
$1 a year
In 2001 Taylor started as an interim president earning only $1 for that first year. “The money could have been better spent back in those days,” Taylor said in response to his earnings the first year.
Once he became full time president in 2002, he started negotiations with the Board of Trusties to set a salary.
“He was arguing for less and the board was arguing for more,” Axtell said. “This is a very unusual situation and Roger prevailed and got the rate near the bottom in terms of [Associated Colleges of the Midwest] schools.”
During his first year of tenure, he took a pay cut because the school was struggling to balance its budget.
When Taylor entered his position, the school used around 16 percent of the endowment that year. This year, Axtell hopes the Board of Trustees will agree to a five percent spending rate, which is the normal rate for sustaining the endowment. “Knox really was in a bad situation in regard to its endowment and spending rate before Roger got here,” Axtell said.
“Other senior officers around here don’t make the kind of money that their peers in other ACM institutions make,” Taylor said. Axtell agreed with this notion, noting that the endowment size correlates to deans’ compensation as well as the professor salaries.
Taylor and his wife Anne Taylor are both members of the Ellen Browning Scripps Society. This membership comes when a person gives more than a million dollars during his or her lifetime.
Since his presidency, Taylor said his yearly donations have gone up. “We both have led privileged lives because of our Knox education,” Taylor said. “So we feel an obligation to give back.”
What about the next president?
Axtell believes the next president will undoubtedly receive higher pay than President Taylor. “The salary will appropriately compare to other college in [the ACM],” Board of Trustees Chair Janet Koran said. “At the moment we have no ranges set.”
Koran refused to comment about specific ranges, saying it would be unfair to the current candidates.