URBANA — Every Tuesday evening, students file into a classroom at Wohlers Hall for a business law course on U.S. corporate governance called "Ultimate Leadership."
Their professor? University of Illinois President Emeritus B. Joseph White, who held the university's top job from 2005 to 2009.
White, who stepped down as president in September 2009 during the Category I admissions scandal, is teaching two to three courses a year as a faculty member in the College of Business.
Former UI Chancellor Richard Herman, who resigned a month later, still holds a faculty position with the College of Education, though he is not currently teaching and now lives in Chicago.
A course he planned for this semester at the Chicago campus was canceled for lack of enrollment, though he will teach two online courses, one starting in April and one later this summer.
White is earning $288,700 a year and Herman $244,444, according to the UI.
The faculty positions and salary terms were specified in their contracts when they were hired as president and chancellor, a fairly common practice for top university administrators.
Neither has received a raise since returning to the faculty, officials said.
White's salary is split between the president's office ($186,400) and the College of Business ($102,300). Herman's is covered by the chancellor's office at the Urbana campus.
The mean salary for full professors in business is $198,175, and in education it's $121,056, according to the UI.
White gave up a $475,000 retention bonus when he stepped down as president. Herman did the same, giving up a $300,000 bonus.
'Special assistant,' then sabbatical
After he resigned, Herman was a special assistant to then-President Stanley Ikenberry from November 2009 to June 2010, working with the Illinois Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Initiative on campus. Known as I-STEM, it's designed to increase the number of science and math teachers graduating from the UI and improve education in those subjects from kindergarten through college.
Herman at the time was chairing a similar national effort through the Association of Land-Grant Universities, and "I-STEM was the perfect place to do it," said Professor Lizanne DeStefano, director of I-STEM.
Herman worked on a grant-funded program that provided technical assistance to 24 universities interested in changing their teacher education programs, she said. He also worked on several "white papers" on how land-grant universities could improve STEM education and organized faculty working groups on how to improve the undergraduate STEM experience, she said.
"It was quite useful to have him here," she said. "It was a good thing for him, too, because it was meaningful work."
Herman then went on a one-year paid sababatical before being assigned to the College of Education in Urbana last fall. He holds a tenured appointment in the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership.
He has no classes on campus this year. He was scheduled to teach a class this semester at the UI Chicago's College of Education, where he holds a zero-time appointment through 2014. But not enough students signed up for the course, "Special Topics in Educational Policy Studies: Historical and Contemporary Issues in Higher Education Post WWII," according to UI officials.
From April 18 to June 20 he will teach an online course on educational leadership and professional development focusing on current issues in K-12 education, including the debate over the No Child Left Behind law. The summer online educational policy studies course, called "Global Studies in Education," will examine educational systems in Finland, China, Singapore and Japan, he said.
The expected teaching load for a tenured professor in the College of Education is two classes per semester, an official said.
Herman has discussed developing a freshman "Discovery" course next fall at the Urbana campus, according to a memo provided by College of Education Dean Mary Kalantzis. She declined an interview.
Herman said he also hopes to develop higher education policy courses for the College of Education in Chicago, and he plans to reintroduce the special topics course next year.
Herman, who taught mathematics and mathematical physics as a professor, said he's always been interested in K-12 education and now has a chance to shape its leaders. As UI provost, he helped establish a Teaching Academy for local teachers at the College of Education and brought the state's Science Olympiad to campus.
During his sabbatical year, Herman said he contributed to a U.S. Council on Competitiveness report on manufacturing and how society is training workers. The report came out in December 2011; Herman is listed as a member of the executive advisers committee.
He also remained involved in the APLU's Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative, which helps public universities with STEM initiatives.
Herman said sabbaticals are intended to "help you engage in new activities."
"I used this opportunity to continue to think about K-12 and what I might be teaching in all the courses," he said.
The memo from Kalantzis said Herman is splitting his time among teaching (25 percent), research (25 percent) and public engagement (50 percent). Herman said he just got an office at the Education Building and plans to spend more time there.
In terms of public outreach, Herman said, he is working with black churches and others in Chicago to recruit minority students who plan to become teachers, especially in STEM fields, to attend the UI. The group is trying to develop a private scholarship fund to support students who would return to teach in Chicago Public Schools.
And he said he's talking with a social work professor at the Urbana campus about developing a service learning program for study-abroad students, so they get involved with their host communities.
He also serves on two advisory committees at the Urbana campus, for the Jewish Studies Program and a registered student organization.
Asked to compare his duties to when he was a full-time professor, he said, "I don't have a large calculus class of 200, but when I had those, I had teaching assistants.
"Obviously, some of this is still in development," he said. "I'm working hard at it, and I'm touching all three bases of what is expected of a professor. I hope to continue to do that."
Back to the classroom
White, who was a business professor and dean at the University of Michigan before taking the UI presidency, designed the two courses he is teaching — a Campus Honors class for undergraduates called "Business as a Force in American Society," and the graduate-level business law course on corporate governance. He also teaches a module on corporate governance for the Executive MBA program.
"I love the students," White said.
He has received high marks from students, with evaluations of 4.7 to 4.9 on a 5 point scale, earning him a spot on a list of teachers rated "excellent."
The Campus Honors Program usually caps enrollment at 20 students to provide small classes for undergraduates, but White's course was raised to 30. He ordinarily teaches the class in the spring, but a fall section was added this school year because of student demand, said UI spokesman Thomas Hardy.
"It's been very, very well-received," said Bruce Michelson, director of the Campus Honors Program. "Since his experience and intellectual skills and teaching skills are so prodigious, we jumped at the opportunity, and the students have really enjoyed it."
Assistant Dean Tracy McCabe said the college is grateful for White's contributions, citing his scholarship, work ethic, experience and quality of teaching. White is working on a follow-up to his 2006 book, "The Nature of Leadership," about corporate governance, and also helps the university with fundraising.
White's agreement with the UI calls for him to teach two courses a year for two years, then ramp up to three — the norm for tenured business administration faculty — in subsequent years, McCabe said.
The honors course is aimed primarily at non-business majors, examining business from multiple perspectives — such as the attributes of a good company, how business is portrayed in film and fiction, corporate social responsibility, and the role of profit and advertising, White said.
"I dreamed of teaching this course for 30 years," he said.
White proposed the business law class because the college offered only a course on international corporate governance, not domestic, White said. The course has 42 students, evenly divided between law students and graduate business majors.
"It's a perfect fit for me," said White, who has served on corporate boards for 25 years. "I called it ultimate leadership because the board is where the buck stops.
"It's a very straightforward course on the subject of roles and responsibilities for a board of directors or a board of trustees, with the primary focus on the private sector."
White said he draws on his own experience, but more as a corporate board member than his time as UI president.
Questions about White's presidency come up in his meetings with students. They ask what it was like to be president, about the Category I admissions scandal and how he handled it.
"I always say to the students, 'From my point of view, there are no inappropriate questions. Anything you want to talk about, I'm happy to talk about it,'" he said.
Category I refers to the list of applicants given preferential treatment by top UI administrators under pressure from trustees and ranking state officials, including former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Prompted by newspaper reports, a state investigation found that over a five-year period dozens of politically connected students were admitted to the UI over more-qualified applicants.
White was implicated in only a handful of cases, but documents showed Herman personally handled many requests. Supporters argued that Herman was under enormous outside pressure, and he said he was trying to insulate academics, but critics felt he succumbed too willingly.
Retired federal appellate Judge Abner Mikva, who chaired the Illlinois Admissions Review Commission, wrote to White after his resignation, saying White came into his presidency "with the deck stacked against you, between the two governors you served under until Governor Quinn, and the Board of Trustees that you had to cope with. Everything that came out during the investigation ... indicated that you always had the best interests of the University as the basis for your actions. You are a person of great integrity and worthy of great respect."
Neither White nor Herman would discuss the Category I scandal. They also declined comment on the current controversy about the UI's enrollment management plans and the resignation of UI presidential chief of staff Lisa Troyer.
White and his wife, Mary, grew up in Kalamazoo, Mich., and decided to stay in Champaign after he stepped down because "this is just our kind of place. We're Midwesterners," he said.
His parents moved here while he was UI president, and his father still lives at the Windsor of Savoy. (His mother died four months ago at age 95.) White's daughter also lived here while her husband was a veterinary medicine student at the UI.
"This feels like home," White said. "We've made many good friends here.
"This is a great place to be a faculty member."
This story appeared in print on Feb. 19.