Paula Volent, senior vice president for investments, was Bowdoin's highest paid employee in the 2009 calendar year with total compensation of $772,873, according to federal tax documents.
The 2010 Form 990, a tax document filed by all nonprofit organizations, places Volent's total compensation above all other chief investment officers in the NESCAC. Collette Chilton, the chief investment officer at Williams College, was the second-highest paid, receiving $600,410 in total compensation in 2009.
Volent was paid a base salary of $416,600, bonus and incentive compensation of $300,000, retirement and other deferred compensation of $35,034, and other reportable compensation of $2,883. Since 2002 she has been the College's highest compensated employee.
President Barry Mills received total compensation of $477,942, which included a base salary of $381,112, retirement and other deferred compensation of $35,034, and nontaxable benefits totaling $49,419.
The high pay given to investment officers is often justified as necessary to retain top talent that would otherwise enter the private sector to earn substantially higher salaries. The Yale Daily News quoted deputy provost Charles Long, who said in reference to renowned Yale investment manager David Swensen, "Here's a guy who could make 10 times his salary"—by working in the private sector—"but his goal is to make as much money as he can for Yale."
Critics, however, contend that nonprofit institutions like Bowdoin should not offer such high compensation packages in light of their mission. Joshua Humphreys, a fellow at the Tellus Institute—a Boston-based think tank—questioned whether Bowdoin is properly weighing its mission in light of its investment program.
"What really needs to be done is to think about the nonprofit mission of the university," he said in a phone interview with the Orient. "Their pay needs to be benchmarked vis-a-vis other people on campus rather than in relationship to hedge fund managers in Greenwich and on Wall Street."
Humphreys conjectured that Volent's compensation reflects her reputation as a protégé of Swensen; Volent worked under him at Yale prior to Bowdoin.
"She is often compared to other acolytes of David Swensen...rather than being looked at within the peer groups of Colby and Bates and schools like that," he said. "She commands a premium because of that."
Humphreys continued, "I don't think that justifies it in my personal view."
Mills believes that Volent is fairly compensated. He told the Orient in a phone interview, "Paula is one of the hardest working people here. She is paid competitively with other people in similar job at similar institutions and it is entirely right for us to pay her at that level."
"We are incredibly fortunate to have someone as talented as Paula leading our endowment," Mills added.
Despite taking charge of the endowment during turbulent economic times, Volent has attained superior returns for the College. Volent was promoted to her current position in 2006, and has achieved a five-year annualized return of 7.1 percent. By way of comparison, Chilton was appointed the chief investment officer at Williams in 2006 as well, and she has delivered a five-year annualized return of 6.1 percent. In the same period, the annualized return for Harvard's endowment was 5.5 percent. Data published by Inside Higher Ed show that the five-year average return on college endowments in the $501 million to $1 billion range—the range in which Bowdoin falls—was 4.8 percent.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the average salary for chief investment officers at baccalaureate colleges—a classification which includes schools with a similar degree-granting focus as Bowdoin—is $177,500.
Bowdoin's other highest paid employees in 2009 in terms of total compensation included Cristle Collins Judd with $249,188, Tim Foster with $194,039 and Scott Meiklejohn with $181,033. Their positions are dean for academic affairs, dean of student affairs, and dean of admissions, respectively. The highest paid professor was Craig McEwen, professor of sociology and a former dean for academic affairs, with total compensation worth $197,541.
-Erica Berry contributed to this report.