Chancellor Wrighton top earner among university leaders
Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton ranked fourth on a list of the 10 biggest earners among leaders of the nation’s 50 most-endowed universities, compiled through a survey conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The survey specifically focused on how university leaders boost their annual income by sitting on corporate boards, for which they receive board earnings.
In addition to the $861,979 in compensation that Chancellor Wrighton received last year from Washington University, he also received $548,734 from sitting on the corporate boards for Corning Incorporated, Brooks Automaton and Cabot Corporation, bringing his total income to $1,410,713.
Other university leaders who made the list include John L. Hennessy of Stanford University—who sits on the boards of Google and Cisco Systems, Ruth J. Simmons from Brown University who sits on the boards of Goldman Sachs and Texas Instruments and Richard C. Levin of Yale University who is on the board of American Express.
In terms of college compensation, Chancellor Wrighton is the sixth highest earner out of the 10 university leaders in the survey. His additional board compensation, though, brought him to fourth, behind Hennessy, Levin, and Shirley M. Tilghman of Princeton University.
Glenn MacDonald, an economics professor at Olin Business School, said it is not unusual for university leaders to sit on corporate boards, as they are usually very intelligent individuals in charge of large organizations.
“Corporations want them because they provide a different perspective coming from an educational background,” MacDonald said. “They frequently have a different way of looking at things that makes them valuable.”
Of the 10 top university leaders on the list, Wrighton is the only one to sit on three different corporate boards; the others sit on either one or two.
MacDonald explained that Wrighton is a desirable candidate for a corporate board position because of how he has proven himself an “academic rock star” who has risen to take charge of an organization with a $5 billion endowment.
“If you’re a washed-up professor, no one’s going to pay you to be on their board” MacDonald said. “But if you’re a really important scientist from a relevant area running a huge organization? Those are the guys people want on their board.”
Wrighton is unique, MacDonald said, in that he has established himself through academia, while most university leaders are administrators who work their way up.
Steven Givens, associate vice chancellor for public affairs, agreed that Wrighton was a top choice for a corporate board member because of his experience both as a scientist and a recognized leader in higher education.
“In his capacity as a member of the board, he is able to offer all these organizations his scientific knowledge and expertise, his management and strategic planning experience and the wisdom he has gained as the leader of one of the world’s great universities,” Givens wrote in an email to Student Life.
Givens explained that the Chancellor Wrighton’s board service is monitored by the University’s strict conflict of interest policies and internal audit procedures.
In addition to the corporate boards listed in the survey, Givens noted that Chancellor Wrighton also volunteers as a board member for a number of nonprofit organizations.
Editor’s note: The original version of this article stated that The Daily performed the study when in fact it is an investigation by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Student Life regrets the error.