Veteran University of Illinois leader Robert Easter will stay on board as president until 2015, and he will be eligible for bonuses beginning this fall. The UI Board of Trustees is expected to approve the extension and new compensation arrangement with Easter next week.
URBANA — Veteran University of Illinois employee Robert Easter will stay on board as president until 2015, and he will be eligible for bonuses beginning this fall.
The UI Board of Trustees is expected to approve the extension and new compensation arrangement with Easter at its meeting Thursday in Chicago.
The move shows continuing board support for the 65-year-old Easter, who has served in a variety of roles at the state's flagship university, including dean, interim provost and interim chancellor. It was Easter to whom trustees turned in the spring of 2012 following the resignation of then-President Michael Hogan. Hogan resigned in the face of faculty pressure following a controversy over proposed enrollment changes and the actions of his chief of staff, Lisa Troyer. Earlier that winter, the university began investigating Troyer for sending anonymous emails to faculty over the enrollment changes. Ultimately she left the UI, and Hogan has been on sabbatical this year.
When the board approved Easter as president in March 2012, the expectation was he would serve until June 30, 2014. The new agreement calls for him serving in the role of president until June 30, 2015.
"There is a consensus, and this is not just on the board but throughout the institution, on campuses and among external audiences, that this first year has gone very well indeed," said UI spokesman Tom Hardy. "There's a desire on the part of the president and trustees ... to extend his term for the additional year," Hardy said.
For the first time, Easter will also be eligible for bonuses. As president, he currently earns a base salary of $450,000, less than Hogan's salary of $651,000 when he was president. In September, Easter will receive a bump to that base salary, plus he will be eligible for "performance-based" incentives.
Hardy said he did not know what those amounts will be, nor did he know the approximate range for the incentive.
It is not uncommon for private colleges to use a performance or incentive-based payment plan to compensate their top administrators. In recent years more public universities have been moving to this pay model, Hardy said.
On Friday the Purdue University Board of Trustees approved a $58,000 performance bonus for President Mitch Daniels. The former Indiana governor assumed that post six months ago. Daniels' base salary is $420,000 and he was eligible for up to $126,000 in bonuses, according to the Associated Press.
Easter’s lengthy relationship with the UI began when he arrived on the Urbana campus as a doctoral student; he earned his Ph.D. in 1976. He then became a faculty member in animal sciences and was dean of the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences for seven years before becoming interim Urbana campus provost. He also served as interim chancellor for two years, following the resignation of then-Chancellor Richard Herman. He retired in the fall of 2011.
Easter later suspended his retirement and like other UI employees is paying into SURS, or State Universities Retirement System, while he accumulates service time, according to Hardy.
Trustees typically conduct annual reviews of the president and other top administrators at their July meeting.
Looking ahead to his fiscal year 2014 goals, Easter will set those and draft a plan with the board's executive committee, which includes Chair Christopher Kennedy and trustees Ed McMillan and Pam Strobel.