No more sky-high salaries for UofL Foundation

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 1, 1970

Over-the-top. Excessive.

The high-flying salaries at the University of Louisville Foundation must go. More important, they must never return.

Obscene is the only way to describe James Ramsey’s salary.

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The booted foundation president was the highest paid officer of any public university foundation in the United States. He averaged more than $2 million per year between 2012 and 2015. It was a part-time job with an average hourly wage of $1,538.

That is a jaw-dropping number.

The Courier-Journal reviewed records of 1,600 officers and employees of more than 1,100 foundations. Reporters Andrew Wolfson and Justin Price found that Ramsey and three other U of L foundation officials had salaries above all those reviewed nationwide.

The other top Louisville foundation salaries:

$1.79 million — Dr. Donald Miller, current director of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center.

$1.1 million — Shirley Willihnganz, former executive vice president and university provost.

$675,848 — Kathleen Smith, former assistant secretary and university chief of staff.

Don’t forget, Ramsey also pulled in $342,930 as UofL’s president, his full-time gig.

As president of the university and the foundation, Ramsey was in a position to write his own paycheck.

Just look to other major schools for examples of reasonable salaries.

Ramsey’s 2014 salary was higher than the combined salaries of the three university presidents and foundation CEOs of the University of Illinois, Indiana University and West Virginia University.

And here’s the real kicker, all three foundations have assets greater than UofL. For example, IU’s foundation manages three times more assets than Louisville.

As with any company or organization, we know competitive salaries are needed to attract leaders who are expected to be successful. UofL needs a healthy foundation.

There were notable accomplishments at the university under Ramsey’s reign. That said, other lesser-paid presidents moved the school forward significantly, and do the same for other schools. And the performance of the foundation is lacking.

The foundation’s most recent tax return shows the endowment fell $47 million from 2015 to 2016. That continues a trend in the endowment’s lagging real value. Since 2006 through April 2016, the inflation adjusted value has dropped 19 percent. That’s $131 million.

Overpaid and overvalued officials are not needed. The foundation needs executives who can deliver. In light of everything, the foundation has rewritten its bylaws to prevent future university presidents from also running the foundation.

Going forward, the foundation’s board must routinely review salaries to ensure that they are comparable to those at other public universities. Salary studies must be made public.

UofL did not get its money’s worth out of Ramsey.

Courier-Journal, Louisville