What’s the price of silence? For Cornell, it may well be over a million dollars. That’s the total compensation that former President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77 earned in his last year as the head of the University, according to 990 financial filings obtained by The Sun.
Sources familiar with the situation said that at least part of that sum was contingent on Lehman’s willingness to remain silent on the reason for his departure.
The total amount, $1,079,034, was higher than any other Ivy League president’s compensation and a large jump above his own 2003-2004 total compensation of $740,027.
Simeon Moss ’73, University press relations office director, declined to comment specifically on the pay hike, saying that Cornell, as a private university, does not release that information publicly.
“I don’t think anybody’s going to talk about presidential salaries,” he said. “That’s a matter between the board and the president.”
The president’s salary is set by the executive committee of the Board of Trustees.
According to sources who worked with the last administration, Lehman and the Executive Board both signed Non-Disclosure Agreements stating that Lehman would not break with the Board’s official policy of not discussing the rift that ended Lehman’s two-year tenure.
Violating that NDA would have endangered much of Lehman’s generous package, which was comprised of a base compensation of $855,468, an additional $148,566 in contributions to his employee benefit plan and $75,000 in “expense account and other allowances,” according to sources close to the situation.
In the weeks and months after Lehman’s resignation, University officials worked hard to down play its significance — and keep quiet its causes. Insiders generally attributed the departure to Chairman of the Board of Trustees Peter Meinig’s ’62 frustration with Lehman’s fundraising approach, with the “final straw” being the departure of Inge Reichenbach, who had served for ten years as vice president of alumni affairs and development. Reichenbach left for Yale, reportedly over an inability to work with Lehman to jump start the capital campaign.
Day Hall was so intent on keeping Lehman’s resignation quiet that, on at least one occasion, a senior administrator called up the former president late one night to make sure he had not spoken too freely with press.
As a result of the turmoil, the capital campaign was postponed, and is now set to launch next Thursday with a goal of $4 billion, of which roughly $1 billion has been raised so far.
Lehman’s final compensation not only outstripped other Ivies, but also President David J. Skorton’s current salary, which was reported by the Des Moines Register to be $675,000. Harvard’s Lawrence Summers, who also recently resigned, earned $667,157 over the same period last year, while Yale’s Richard Levin was paid $791,140.