After stepping down as Cornell’s 11th president, Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77, who left office under controversial circumstances, was compensated $785,518 for the 2005-06 fiscal year — over $75,000 more than then-Interim President Hunter R. Rawlings III.
Compensation includes salary and benefit packages, as reported in 990 forms the IRS requires tax-exempt entities to fill out yearly; under IRS regulations, the Form 990 must be released to organizations that request it. (The Form 990 is available for download at the end of the article.)
Lehman, the only Cornell alum to hold the office of president, announced his resignation during the State of the University address in June 2005 to the surprise of students and faculty. He served for only two years, the shortest tenure of any University president.
In 2004-05, his last year as president of the University, Lehman earned a total of $1,079,034. The amount was higher than any other Ivy League president and more than a 45 percent increase from the previous year, in which he made $740,027.
Lehman’s post-job compensation in 2005-06 was also more than all the Ivy presidents, except Yale University President Richard Levin, who earned $869,026.
At least part of the money paid to Lehman for his last year was given on the condition that he stay silent about the reasons for his departure from Cornell, according to sources close to the situation.
Both Lehman and the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees agreed there would be no outside discussion of why Lehman’s presidency ended, according to sources who worked in Lehman’s administration.
People close to the situation have often ascribed Lehman’s resignation to issues Board of Trustees Chair Peter Meinig ’62 had with Lehman’s fundraising approach. One contentious point was the departure of Inge Reichenbach, who served as vice president for alumni affairs and development for 10 years, to Yale.
The capital campaign was scheduled to launch during Lehman’s presidency, but was postponed until October 2006.
Lehman held the title of professor of law during the 2005-06 school year, according to Simeon Moss ’73, director of the Cornell Press Office.
Moss also said that the payment was “part of [Lehman’s] employment contract with the University.”
The highest paid University officials in 2005-06, in addition to Rawlings, were Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College Antonio Gotto, Jr., who was paid $1,122,940, and Provost Biddy Martin, who was paid $534,488.
According to the Cornell University 2007-08 Financial Plan, professors in endowed colleges made $120,750 on average for the 2006-07 school year; professors in contract colleges made $105,717 on average that year.
According to a survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education, the highest paid private college president in 2005-06 was Northeastern University President Richard Freeland, who was paid almost $2.9 million; Freeland stepped down in 2006. Philadelphia University President James Gallagher was paid the second most, around $2.6 million, that year; Gallagher stepped down earlier this year.
Presidents at 12 private universities made more than $1 million during the 2005-06 school year, while only seven received over $1 million the year before, according to The New York Times.
According to the same Chronicle survey, a decade ago only three private college presidents earned more than $500,000. In 2004-05, that number reached 70; in 2005-06, 81 presidents earned over half a million. 2005-06 is the latest reporting period for private universities.
Only two presidents of public universities made over $700,000 during the 2005-06 school year. For 2006-07 — a reporting period only available for public institutions — eight presidents made over $700,000.
“If your aspiration is to be a college president, that is a way to become a millionaire,” Patrick M. Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education in San Jose, Calif., told The New York Times. “That was inconceivable 20 years ago.”