News & Politics

Don’t Cry for Ben Ladner

American University's notorious former president is still topping compensation charts, years after he resigned.

He may be gone, but his ghost lingers. American University officials couldn’t have been thrilled to see the name of Ben Ladner, who resigned in 2005 amid revelations of his luxury lifestyle, atop the Chronicle of Higher Education’s latest list of the nation’s best-paid private-college presidents. His $4,270,665 compensation package—mostly a very golden parachute—was lots more than that of the runner-up, Northeastern University’s Richard Freeland, who made $2.8 million.


Ladner’s package included $1,773,653 in deferred compensation, $963,125 in an insurance policy, $950,000 in severance, $240,079 in salary, $132,500 in incentive pay, and “other payments” of $124,525. American’s interim leader, Cornelius Kerwin, made $522,187 the year after Ladner left.

Locally, the biggest winner was George Mason’s Alan Merten, who saw his pay rise from $228,543 in 2004–05 to $642,500 in 2006–07 thanks to two performance bonuses. Merten was second only to George Washington University’s Steve Trachtenberg, now retired, who made $706,133 in 2005.

Other notables: UMd’s Dan Mote made $432,539. Georgetown’s Jack DeGioia made $589,849, just slightly more than Howard’s Patrick Swygert, who brought home $552,196. UDC’s William Pollard, who resigned in June 2007, made $235,657, and Southeastern University’s Charlene Drew Jarvis made just $192,483. At Catholic University, the Very Reverend David O’Connell’s $262,289 is paid to his religious order.

The real winner of the higher-education pay system is the football coach: At Maryland, Ralph Friedgen made $1,691,864. And the list shows that whereas UVa president John Casteen made $731,672, his football coach, Al Groh, brought home a million more—$1,785,000.

This article can be found in the April 2008 issue of The Washingtonian.