Wednesday, May 22, 2013
University of Alaska Regents Defend President's Pay Raise
An 8.5 percent pay increase approved Friday for University of Alaska President Pat Gamble was part of a long-term plan to make his salary more competitive.
FAIRBANKS — An 8.5 percent pay increase approved Friday for University of Alaska President Pat Gamble was part of a long-term plan to make his salary more competitive, the chairman of the UA Board of Regents said Tuesday.
Fuller Cowell said regents had agreed informally to re-evaluate Gamble’s salary about a year after the new president began work at UA in June 2010. If he was meeting expectations, a significant raise was planned, Cowell said.
“He has done an outstanding job this past year,” Cowell said. “The regents felt we wanted to get him closer to normal.”
That “normal” range for a president at an institution like UA is somewhere between $300,000 and $350,000, according to a consultant who advised the regents during the search process for a new president.
Gamble, a former Alaska Railroad executive and U.S. Air Force general, signed a three-year contract with an annual salary of $295,000 last year. It was intentionally set below the consultant’s recommended range during a probationary year, Cowell said. With the raise, Gamble now earns about $320,000.
The salary increase was approved by an 8-1 vote, with Regent Ken Fisher casting the opposing vote. Regents Jo Heckman and Carl Marrs were absent and didn’t vote on the pay increase, which was introduced during the new business portion of Friday’s meeting in Juneau.
Fisher, speaking by telephone from Juneau, said he believes Gamble was already being paid a fair salary and that public service positions should be judged by more than just financial compensation. The Alaska governor, he noted, makes less than half as much as the UA president.
Fisher said his vote against the raise had nothing to do with Gamble, who he said has been “peerless” in his first year leading UA.
“This is not a reflection of his performance,” Fisher said. “We could not have made a better selection for president.”
UA spokeswoman Kate Ripley said the regents also gauge executive compensation by comparing to 17 peer institutions from around the country, including the University of Colorado, University of Oregon and University of Massachusetts.
A dozen of those schools returned a recent executive pay survey, which determined the median pay for their presidents is $418,300. UA’s goal for executive salaries is that they be 10 percent below the market median of similar positions at other universities, Ripley said, and Gamble remains well below that level.
The pay for Gamble’s predecessor, Mark Hamilton, was set at a yearly rate of $300,000, along with a $70,000 annual bonus each year the contract was fulfilled. Hamilton retired in 2010 after 12 years atop the UA system.
Cowell said he expected scrutiny for boosting executive pay during tight economic times but believes Gamble’s raise is fair compensation for his performance.
“I can tell you that me, as well as the rest of the regents, are aware of the university’s public perception,” Cowell said. “We want to be good stewards of the public’s money.”
Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518.