Bryant, JWU top list of highest-paid college presidents

The outgoing president of Bryant University topped the list at $6.28 million for 2017, thanks largely to a deferred-compensation package.

Johnson and Wales University
Johnson and Wales University

PROVIDENCE — It pays to be a private college president in Rhode Island.

The outgoing presidents of Bryant University and Johnson and Wales University were the highest-compensated private college leaders in the country in 2017, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Chronicle of Higher Education based on the most recently available data.

Bryant president Ronald Machtley topped the list at $6.28 million, thanks largely to a deferred-compensation package that paid him more than $5 million. Machtley is set to retire at the end of the 2020 school year.

Former Johnson & Wales chancellor John J. Bowen, who retired in 2018 after 45 years at the university, was paid $5.3 million, including $4.5 million in deferred compensation.


Rounding out the top five were Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute president Shirley Ann Jackson ($5.1 million), University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann ($2.9 million) and Johns Hopkins University president Ronald J. Daniels ($2.68 million).

Among the university presidents in New England who in 2017 earned at least $1 million were: Former Quinnipiac University president John Lahey ($2.1 million), Northeastern University president Joseph E. Aoun ($1.6 million), Boston University president Robert A. Brown ($1.6 million), Yale University president Peter Salovey ($1.4 million), former Bentley University president Gloria Cordes Larson ($1.36 million), Amherst College president Carolyn A. Martin ($1.36 million), Brown University president Christina Paxson ($1.3 million), Dartmouth College president Philip Hanlon ($1.24 million), Massachusetts Institute of Technology president L. Rafael Reif ($1.17 million), former Harvard University president Drew Gilpin Faust ($1.17 million), Tufts University president Anthony Monaco ($1 million), Worcester Polytechnic Institute president Laurie Leshin ($1 million), and Sacred Heart University president John J. Petillo ($1 million).

The Chronicle of Higher Educations publishes its ranking annually using the latest available data that these universities, as nonprofits, must file with the Internal Revenue Service.


In previous years, Machtley and Bowen were not near the top of the compensation list, and both earned less than $1 million a year in base pay.

Their former universities quickly issued statements defending the payouts to Machtley and Bowen, noting that they both served several decades at their respective schools.

In Machtley’s case, Bryant’s Board of Trustees approved the deferred-compensation package in 2003, but the stock market soared in recent years and boosted his pay.

“Since president Machtley is one of the longest-serving university presidents in the nation, it’s not surprising that the 2017 payment of his long-term compensation pushed him to the top,” said Bryant spokesperson Elizabeth O’Neil.

Machtley is widely credited with transforming Bryant from a small business college to a university with nearly 4,000 undergraduates. Its sports programs now play in Division I in the Northeast Conference.

James H. Hance Jr., who chairs the Johnson & Wales Board of Trustees, said the university “experienced growth in both enrollment and new facilities while successfully achieving many of the goals set forth in its strategic plans” during Bowen’s tenure.

“His compensation package was established 18 years ago by the JWU Board of Trustees and later amended, taking into account his leadership of a multi-campus system in four states, accomplishments, and many years of service to the university,” Hance said.

Deirdre Fernandes of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.