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BU’s Robert Brown tops college leader pay in region

Boston University president Robert A. Brown, pictured in 2013, earned $1,218,869 in salary and benefits in 2014, a 3 percent increase over the previous school year.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/file

For a second year in a row, an annual survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education found that Boston University president Robert A. Brown was the highest-paid president of a private college in Massachusetts.

An analysis of private college executive compensation packages in 2014 based on the latest data from federal tax filings showed that Brown earned $1,218,869 that year in salary and benefits, a 3 percent increase over the previous school year, when he made $1,182,534.

Colin Riley, spokesman for Boston University, said in a statement that Brown’s “total compensation is based on a robust competitive analysis of pay for leaders at peer institutions, and his meeting and exceeding performance benchmarks.”


His compensation includes the full value of the entire university home and property he’s required to live in, not solely his living quarters, Riley said.

“The value is significantly higher than that reported by institutions that only include the housing value of the living space,” Riley said.

At 377 colleges whose presidents served for the entirety of the 2013 and 2014 school years, the 2014 average compensation was $531,817 compared with the prior year’s average of $489,626. That’s an increase of 8.6 percent.

The survey also found that 39 private college presidents earned more than $1 million, up from 32 the year before.

In 2014, Brown was no longer the only Massachusetts private university president to earn more than $1 million, as he had been in the Chronicle’s survey the prior year.

One other president, Northeastern University’s Joseph E. Aoun, passed the million-dollar mark by earning $1,090,414 in salary and benefits, an increase of just over 9 percent from his 2013 salary of $998,960.

Two local presidents’ compensation decreased slightly this year.

Former Brandeis University president Frederick M. Lawrence, who stepped down after the 2015 academic year, went from $938,759 to $937,752. Emerson College president M. Lee Pelton’s salary went from $811,448 to $810,920.


Harvard University president Drew Faust earned $969,830, moving up from fourth-highest salary in the Bay State to third-highest salary, according to the survey. She now ranks 43rd nationwide.

The highest-paid private college president was Jack P. Varsalona of Wilmington University in New Castle, Del., who made $5.5 million.

Compensation packages include base salary, bonuses, and other benefits, including payments for housing, travel, moving expenses, and spending accounts.

Deferred compensation, a pool of money many presidents accrue during their tenure and collect when they leave, is not included in earnings as long as they do not resign before a specified date. The Chronicle counts deferred compensation only in the year it is paid out.

Cristela Guerra can be reached at cristela.guerra@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra.