Zimmer’s salary tops $1 million

Though President Zimmer’s salary jump was due to many factors, his wages took a hefty boost of over $100,000

By Adam Janofsky

Uncommon students may be one in a million, but the U of C’s president is worth a million.

President Robert Zimmer’s annual pay increased by 25.3 percent for the 2008–2009 calendar year, to $1,162,213, according to a tax form, making him the 21st-highest-paid university president of the 30 earning more than $1 million.

The pay raise, from $927,814 in 2007–2008, is largely due to changes in Form 990, which is submitted by tax-exempt organizations to the Internal Revenue Service to calculate their expenditures, according to University spokesperson Steve Kloehn. Unlike last year’s documents, housing benefits are taken into account this year.

“A substantial portion of the difference is accounted for in housing expenses,” Kloehn said, adding that Zimmer’s President’s House on East 59th Street and South University Avenue represents a large part of the $110,715 “nontaxable benefits” category.

Zimmer’s real pay did rise, though, in part due to deferred compensation, which increased 28 percent, from $424,647 to $543,400.

The pay increase puts Zimmer in the ranks of the 30 university presidents who now earn over $1 million, up from 23 presidents last year, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Its report, part of an annual review on academic salaries, looked at the total compensation of 448 University chief executives.

Zimmer is now the 21st-highest-paid American university president, a boost from his position as 27th last year but not as high as in fiscal year 2006–2007, when he was 15th-highest-paid.

The academic prestige of an institution does not necessarily correlate with its president’s salary, according to The Chronicle’s data. The president of Columbia University, Lee Bollinger, was the only Ivy League president to break into the top 10 with a $1,753,984 salary. The president of Harvard, Drew Faust, earned $822,011, over 41 percent less than President Zimmer.

The highest-paid college president on the list was Orthodox rabbi Bernard Lander, who founded Touro College 40 years ago and expanded it into a system of 24,000 students. Although Lander died in February, his total compensation package in 2008–2009 was $4,786,830.

Though Zimmer earns over $1 million from the University, his salary is less than half the amount made by the highest-paid U of C employees in 2008–2009, though the two highest paid employees of that year are no longer in their previous jobs.

Former University Chief Investment Officer Peter Stein was paid $2,848,248, more than any other employee. From 2005 to 2009, when he left the University for family reasons, Stein managed the $6.5-billion University endowment portfolio before it dropped in the market crash.

James Madara, Pritzker School of Medicine professor and second-highest-paid University employee, earned $1,781,935 in 2008–2009. He stepped down from his position as CEO of the Medical Center and dean of the Biological Sciences Division amid controversy surrounding the Center’s Urban Health Initiative in October 2009.