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UPDATE: Spanier Has 'Overwhelming Support' For Contract Extension, Aide Says

on June 05, 2010 10:30 AM

Penn State President Graham Spanier had "overwhelming support" from the university trustees when they agreed to extend his contract, university spokeswoman Lisa Powers said late Friday.

Earlier in the day, Old Main announced that the Board of Trustees has agreed to extend Spanier's contract for three years, a decision that will keep him in the Penn State presidency at least until 2015.

Spanier, who was named president in 1995, said he will be 66 in 2015. Asked why he sought to continue his presidency, he wrote in an e-mail: "I believe I have the best job in American higher education, and there are still challenges and opportunities ahead for Penn State."

"We will certainly be challenged by ... the financial situation the Commonwealth faces," Spanier wrote. "But we are also finding an increasingly competitive landscape in higher education for top faculty, students and research grants.

"We also need to find a way to support our Commonwealth campuses, provide expanded and improved housing at our campuses and deal with the continuing challenge of the excessive consumption of alcohol," Spanier went on.

Steve Garban, chairman of the Penn State Board of Trustees, could not be reached immediately on Friday. In a prepared statement from Old Main, Garban said Spanier provides "incredible stability" to the university.

"It's something that just doesn't happen frequently in higher education -- or anywhere -- anymore," Garban said in the statement. "Graham has led us through so many exciting positive changes and pushed for Penn State to be the best at every level. His longstanding tenure and his outstanding leadership have really been keys to our success."

Powers said a small committee of trustees considers presidential contract extensions in consultation with other board members. The committee includes the board chairman or chairwoman, the vice chair, the immediate past chair and the chair of the board's Committee on Finance and Physical Plant.

They use the services of outside legal counsel, Powers said, to help them gauge fair-market value and demand as they set presidential compensation.

Under terms of the extended contract, which will take effect July 1, Spanier will have a base salary of $700,000 per fiscal year. His base salary the past two fiscal years was $620,000, according to the university.

As of 2007-08, Spanier's base pay ranked near the middle of the pack among Big Ten university presidents, according to a compilation by the News-Gazette of Illinois. Penn State is generally considered among the three largest Big Ten schools.

Spanier, already one of the longest-serving sitting presidents at major public universities, also is on track to become one of the longest-serving presidents in Penn State history. The university's eighth president, George Atherton, had the longest tenure: 24 years. He died in office in 1906.

As long as Spanier, the 16th president, serves through 2015, he will tie Ralph Hetzel for second-longest tenure: 20 years. Hetzel took office in 1927.

It's not clear if Spanier wants to conclude his presidency in 2015 or later. But "my current plan would be to rejoin the faculty and go back to teaching and research when my tenure as president is completed," he wrote via e-mail.

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