When Dr. Michael V. Drake becomes the 15th president of Ohio State University, beginning June 30, he will earn $1 million annually, according to the terms of his five-year contract.

The salary and compensation of the university’s first African-American chief executive is significantly above the average for public university leaders. However, it is only half of what was paid to his predecessor, E. Gordon Gee, long considered one of the highest-earning public university presidents in the nation, according to an annual survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The discrepancy may lie in bonuses and other compensation.

According to the Chronicle, in 2011-2012, the median base pay for public-college heads was $373,800 and the median total compensation was $441,392, an increase of 4.7 percent from 2010-2011.

Drake will receive double that amount with a base salary of $800,000, subject to yearly review and increase, and an annual deferred payment of $200,000. He is also eligible for an annual bonus of $200,000 if he meets certain performance targets and goals.

Gee earned a similar base pay. According to the seven-year contract for his tenure beginning Nov. 1, 2007, he was paid a base salary of $775,000—also eligible for yearly review and increase—and $225,000 annually in deferred compensation, which became available for payout after five years.

The contract did not specify the amount of his bonuses but said, “In recognition of Gee’s standing as a preeminent national educator and the compensation packages offered by other major universities to similarly qualified individuals, Gee shall be eligible for additional compensation via bonuses or otherwise for achieving performance targets and goals.”

According to the {Chronicle}, in the 2007-2008 school year, Gee became the first public-college president to cross the million-dollar threshold in their annual survey, earning $1.3 million, including $300,000 in bonuses.

His more recent earnings of almost $2 million could possibly be attributed, in part, to a payout of his deferred compensation and other bonuses.

That is the case with many of the country’s highest-earning college presidents, the analysis revealed.

For example, the publication cited, in the 2011-2012 school year, Auburn University President Jay Gogue, whose base salary was $482,070, earned $2.5 million. Nearly 75 percent of that sum came from a payout of five years of deferred compensation.

Before accepting the top job at Ohio State, Drake served as chancellor of the University of California, Irvine, where he earned more than $400,000.

Under that appointment, beginning July 2005, Drake was able to effect a more than 90 percent increase in undergraduate admission and he increased minority representation among the undergraduate student body by 59.1 percent; he oversaw the creation of the first new public law school in California in more than 40 years, the creation of the UC Irvine School of Education and led the launch of new programs in public health, pharmaceutical sciences, and nursing science, according to the university’s website.

Additionally, under his chancellorship, UCI was twice recognized as the leading university in the United States—and in the top five worldwide—in existence less than 50 years.

Drake, an ophthalmologist by training, taught at Irvine. He has also been granted tenure in Ohio State’s College of Medicine, but is not expected to teach. He will, however, receive laboratory space and $50,000 per year for research.

According to the contract, he and his wife will receive expenses for moving to Ohio and for first-class air travel and will have access to the university’s NetJets account for travel by private plane when on university business.

Drake and his wife will also receive an annual automobile stipend of $14,400 annually—about $1,200 per month; $12,000 per year for tax preparation and financial planning; and the school will also pay for their membership dues and fees at a social club.

Even with all that, the new president will not be the highest paid official at Ohio State.

Gene Smith, the school’s vice president and director of athletics, under a new contract for July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2020, will get a new base salary of $940, 484 and an extra $200,000 for public relations duties. He is also eligible for bonuses if, for example, the school’s sports teams win Big Ten or NCAA titles. Together, he could net up to $1.5 million in annual earnings.

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Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO