Paula Volent, senior vice president for investments, remained Bowdoin’s highest-paid employee during the 2011 calendar year, a position she has held since she bypassed President Barry Mills in the 2007 fiscal year according to a November 2008 Orient article. She earned $873,686 in total in 2011, according to the most recent Form 990 tax documents filed by the College. All nonprofit institutions are required to disclose the compensation of their highest earners.
At $499,824, Mills’ earnings ranked third, behind Volent and William Torrey, who stepped down as senior vice president for planning and development in 2011. Torrey made $552,311, a 78.5 percent increase—from $309,333 the year before—that Mills attributed to a retirement package.
Historically, Bowdoin has been an anomaly among small liberal arts schools, where presidents are typically the highest earners. In 2011, Williams was the only other NESCAC institution where another administrator earned the highest salary, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s compilation of executive compensation at private colleges.
Bowdoin was the only college where the president was the third-highest earner.
Volent’s earnings in 2011 marked an 11.8 percent increase from 2010. Her base pay was $515,179, while she made $300,000 in bonus pay, $37,498 in deferred compensation, $16,882 in nontaxable benefits and $4,127 in other pay.
Her total compensation was close to that of Williams’ Chief Investment Officer Collette Chilton, the highest-paid non-president in the NESCAC. Chilton made $878,582 in 2011.
“We have an agreement with Paula which is designed to compensate her fairly for her amount of incredible hard work and success of our endowment,” Mills said in an interview with the Orient.
In the 2013 fiscal year, the endowment bypassed $1 billion and returned 16 percent, putting it in the top 5 percent of peer returns according to Cambridge Associates, a firm that tracks educational funds’ performance across the nation.
Mills’ earnings increased by 3.4 percent in 2011, a rate more typical for Bowdoin administrative staff according to what Mills said in a January 2013 Orient article. After $398,463 of base pay, his salary was supplemented by $39,121 in deferred compensation, $49,676 in nontaxable benefits, and $12,564 in other pay.
Mills’ compensation has often ranked toward the bottom for NESCAC presidents, a pattern that continued in 2011 as he ranked ninth.
Only one president who served for the full year—Middlebury’s Ronald Liebowitz—made less, and his pay was effectively equal at $497,205.
Liebowitz has taken steep pay cuts in recent years. He was the highest compensated NESCAC president as recently as 2008.
Tufts, Amherst, and Bates each brought in a new president in 2011, resulting in two presidents on their forms. The two highest-paid presidents in the NESCAC were Tufts’ outgoing president Lawrence Bacow, who made $2,223,752, and Amherst’s outgoing president Anthony Marx, who made $1,596,283. Bates’s outgoing president, Elaine Hansen, made $233,290.
In the past, Mills has emphasized a desire to the Board of Trustees not to see significant pay increases.
“My own sense is that there are a lot of reasons to be a college president, and it’s important to me to be compensated in a way that sends out a message to the world, to people who really value what I’m doing,” Mills said. “On the other hand, I am of the view that, in a world where families are paying north of $60,000 a year to send their kids to school, this is not a job people ought to be doing to get wealthy.”
Rounding out the top five highest paid Bowdoin administrators were Katy Longley, treasurer and senior vice president for finance and administration, and Dean for Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd. Longley made $313,503, while Judd made $273,399.
Three professors made the list of top earners: Professor of Natural Sciences Patsy Dickinson, Professor of Art Mark Wethli, and Professor of History Allen Wells. Dickinson, at $230,548, was the highest paid.
To pay faculty competitively, Bowdoin looks at the three-year lagging averages of faculty salary percentage increases by the fourth, fifth, and sixth-ranked schools within its peer group.
It then determines salaries for its own faculty based on that average. The College calls this method the 4-5-6 policy.
The Board of Trustees ultimately determines the pay for Bowdoin’s administrators, including Mills. For others, Mills makes recommendations to the Board.
“We gather all kinds of competitive information from outside sources to give us the competitive pricing for people in a variety of senior positions at the college,” he said. “I review that very carefully, and I talk to the head of human resources, and I make some judgments myself based on the quality of work and the talent of the people who I work with.”
Sometimes, staying competitive in a world where people move around frequently means a pay increase beyond the standard three percent.
Speaking about Volent, Mills said, “We do look quite carefully at how other people are being paid at comparable institutions and, frankly, at institutions bigger than we are, because she has the talent to be able to run any size endowment, and we are incredibly fortunate that she runs ours.”