Former UNH President Continued to Earn Full Salary After Retirement

Jul 28, 2019

Former UNH President Mark Huddleston
Credit University of New Hampshire

Former University of New Hampshire president Mark Huddleston continued to collect a $425,000 salary in the year after he retired from his position in June 2018. That put Huddleston slightly behind UNH’s current president, Jim Dean, who earns $455,000 a year since taking over for Huddleston last summer. 

According to Huddleston’s employment contract, acquired by NHPR through a right-to-know request, he was eligible for 12 months of “transitional pay,” including benefits, after he retired. The pay for that year would be equal to Huddelston's base salary in his final year as UNH president. That contract says Huddleston’s transitional period was meant to be spent conducting research and other “professional development” activities.

Huddleston did not return multiple requests for comment regarding his post-retirement role with UNH.

Officials at UNH and the University System of New Hampshire declined to be interviewed for this story, saying they could not talk about individual employees. Instead, USNH Communications Director Lisa Thorne provided brief written statements on UNH’s behalf, indicating that Huddleston assisted with the UNH presidential transition after his retirement.

“Senior leaders at UNH engaged Mark Huddleston to discuss a range of issues and topics to ensure continuity and to provide historical background and context,” the statement read.

According to Huddleston's contract, he was only eligible for a year of transitional pay if he planned to return to teaching in the University System following the expiration of his contract. While serving as UNH president, Huddleston was also a tenured full professor in political science, allowing him to continue at UNH if he decided to do so. UNH Political Science Department Chair Mary Malone said Huddleston isn’t scheduled to teach in the department this year. 

Instead, according to UNH's written statement, Huddleston is scheduled to work with UNH Professional Development and Training, an office with the university that leads career workshops, conferences and seminars.  But the details of Huddleston's employment there have not been settled, Thorne said.

“Among other things, he will be participating in the development of the Annual Leadership and Management Conference and co-instructing the Applied Leadership Institute,” according to a university statement provided by Thorne.

UNH’s policy on administrators returning to the faculty, which is cited in Huddleston’s contract, states that he could receive the greater amount of either: “a starting academic year faculty salary no higher than the highest paid faculty member of the same academic rank in the department/discipline (excluding any former administrators who returned to the faculty under conditions of the old policy)” or his “UNH academic year salary immediately prior to the administrative appointment adjusted upward by the contractually obligated annual percentage increases.”

Before Huddleston's selection as UNH president in 2007, he served as president at Ohio Wesleyan University, and did not have a position at UNH prior to that administrative appointment. 

According to the most recent USNH salary book, the highest-paid faculty member in the Professional Development and Training department is its director Chris LaBelle, whose base pay is $112,600.

Top-ranking administrators within the University System of New Hampshire have typically been among the highest paid public officials in the state. In 2018, the highest-paid public official outside of the University System was Chief Medical Examiner Jennie Duval, who earned a salary of $209,999. By comparison, Gov. Chris Sununu was paid $133,587 and New Hampshire Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Lynn earned $116,418, according to state salary records.

Raymond Cotton, a Washington-based lawyer who has written hundreds of contracts for college and university presidents across the country, said the provisions in Huddleston’s contract for his transitional period and return to teaching were vague.

“It’s poorly worded,” Cotton said. “Oftentimes, provisions like this are very specific, and they say, ‘after a presidency is over, you shall have a year of sabbatical to prepare yourself to get ready to teach,’ and it’ll say where.”

However, Cotton said, it's very common for college presidents to have generous contracts like this, especially for a state’s flagship university. 

“One reason [for a transitional pay year] is, if they don’t offer it, the president doesn’t come,” Cotton said. “It’s part of the total compensation package that’s negotiated [at the time of hiring]... This is a fairly standard benefit for a CEO.”

Current UNH President Has Different Deal

The contract for UNH’s current president, Dean, indicates he isn’t being offered the same perks as Huddleston.

Should he choose to return to teaching upon leaving the president’s office, Dean's contract states that he would be a full professor in the university's Paul College of Business and Economics. His transitional salary would only span a six-month period, as opposed to the year-long period offered to Huddleston. And that salary would be at a rate associated with the teaching position and determined through collective bargaining.

James Finkelstein, who studies college president contracts at George Mason University in Virginia, said transitional salaries like Huddleston’s are becoming more common at public colleges. He said the issue needs further scrutiny.

“The real question is, why would a university president be treated much more favorably than any other state official in New Hampshire?” Finkelstein said. “Because public funds are involved in that payment, at least to a certain degree.”

UNH did not respond to questions about which pool of funds administrative salaries come from by the time this story was published.