October 5, 2012

University of South Carolina president set to receive pay boost

University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides is set to receive a 21 percent raise when the board of trustees approved asking for a $125,000 annual pay hike on Friday.

Records in research grants, fundraising, enrollment and football victories have helped set up USC president Harris Pastides to become one of the highest-paid presidents of a public university in the country.

USC trustees voted Friday to ask the school’s educational foundation to boost Pastides’ pay by $125,000, taking his annual compensation to $724,000 from $599,000. Pastides is paid about equally with public and foundation money.

Based on data from 2010-11 collected by the Chronicle of Higher Education, Pastides’ new salary – including his deferred compensation – would have been 12th-highest in the country for a public university president. However, some of Pastides’ peers also may have received raises since then.

In 2010-11, Pastides ranked 50th, but that figure did not include $64,000 a year in deferred compensation. With that money, Pastides would rank 28th. Clemson University president James Barker earned $399,000 in 2010-11, which ranked 103rd.

USC’s trustees also asked the foundation to give Pastides, 58, a $250,000 “retention” bonus if he still is working at the university in five years. If he receives the bonus, Pastides will earn $974,000 in either 2017 or 2018.

The foundation’s budget committee is expected to take up the raises next week. The full foundation board meets in November.

Trustees did not say if Pastides’ new pay would start this year or next, but they are pleased with his performance.

Pastides is in his fifth year leading the state’s flagship university, which has set records for research grants, fundraising and enrollment. The Gamecocks’ athletics programs also have flourished with a pair of national baseball championships and the football team’s first-ever 11-win season.

“He has so many different roles,” trustee chairman Gene Warr said. “He’s an academic leader. He must work with students and parents. He must be a diplomat. He has been excellent in all these roles. And he’s a genuine person. That’s rare.”

In other news, Pastides said Friday that USC wants Wisconsin-based Johnson Controls to take another crack at building a steam-generating power plant at the site of a failed biomass plant.

University leaders will meet next week with officials from Johnson Controls, which built the $19.6 million biomass plant that closed 18 months ago after a series of mishaps.

An audit of the original plant contract, released Friday, said the school should have checked Johnson Controls’ reports on savings when the plant was operating and trustees should have discussed the risks of the new technology before approving the deal.

The method of power generation for the new plant has not been decided, Pastides said. The company could gut the building at Whaley and Sumter streets for the new plant. Johnson Controls would pay for the project, he said.

The biomass plant was intended to provide 85 percent of the Columbia campus’ energy needs, producing steam by heating a wood byproduct. The plant was supposed to save the school $2.1 million a year in energy costs but operated only 98 out of 534 days before it was closed.

Part of USC’s agreement with Johnson Controls required it to pay USC for the cost of the plant’s construction if promised energy-saving goals were not met. The school is scheduled to recover those costs by the end of the decade.

“Not a great energy plant but a great contract,” Pastides said. “We’d rather see the savings in the generation of steam rather than in receipt of a check. In the meantime, we’ll take the check.”

What SEC presidents make

With his expected raise, USC president Harris Pastides would have been the Southeastern Conference’s third-highest paid leader in 2010-11, based on a survey of salaries compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

School -- President, salary

1. Vanderbilt: Nicholas Zeppos, $1.89 million

2. Kentucky: Lee Todd, $972,106

3. South Carolina: Harris Pastides, $724,000 (*)

4. Auburn: Jay Gogue, $722,500

5. Alabama: Malcolm Proterra, $604,541

6. Georgia: Michael Adams, $575,418

7. LSU: John Lombardi, $572,500

8. Texas A&M: Richard Loftin, $525,000

9. Arkansas: G. David Gearhart, $513,191

10. Florida: Bernard Machen, $507,808

11. Mississippi State: Mark Keenum, $429,000

11. Mississippi: Daniel Jones, $429,000

13. Missouri: Brady Deaton, $395,577

14. Tennessee: Jimmy Cheek, $345,000

(*) With pending $125,000 raise and $64,000 a year in deferred compensation, not included in the Chronicle list. The totals listed above include defer compensation when listed by the schools.

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