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Florida University Pays Top Dollar

November 14, 2005|Jennifer Peltz | South Florida Sun-Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The highest-paid college president in the country isn't at Harvard.

Or at Ohio State University, where more than 50,000 students make up the nation's biggest non-online university.

Or at any college in pricey Boston, New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco.

He's on a small suburban campus in Boca Raton, Fla., running a university with 2,800 students, 15 undergraduate majors, a handful of graduate degrees and a fourth-tier ranking in the U.S. News & World Report college guide.

Lynn University paid President Donald E. Ross more than $5 million in 2003-2004, according to an annual college compensation survey being released today by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Ross' salary was $477,000, and more than $4.5 million was put aside for his planned June 2006 retirement -- an influx of cash designed to make up for decades of no retirement benefits, the university said.

According to the survey, four other college presidents cracked the $1-million compensation barrier. Nine earned more than $900,000.

After Ross, the next highest-paid were Audrey K. Doberstein, formerly of Wilmington College in Delaware, at $1.37 million, and Gordon Gee of Vanderbilt at $1.33 million. The figures include some deferred compensation.

Ross, who has been president at Lynn for 34 years, declined to comment. He has been among the best-paid administrators for several years, though his tenure at Lynn goes back to a time when "some months, no one -- including me -- got paid," as he wrote in a campus publication in 2001.

Trustees reexamined his salary in 1998 after news reports noted that he was paid more than the presidents of several major universities. But trustees decided it was warranted. So is the recent multimillion-dollar retirement payment, says trustee Chairwoman Christine E. Lynn, one of the university's namesake benefactors.

Ross essentially founded the university in 1971 by finding investors to revive and reinvent a Catholic women's college that was about to close. He and his family lived in the dorms in the early years, and the campus still is something of a family concern.

Ross' wife, Helen, runs the university's Pine Tree Camps, making $162,000 a year, according to tax returns. Their son, Kevin, is Lynn's chief operating officer and may succeed his father as president. He made $130,000 in 2002-2003 when he was the fundraising director.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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