University of Wyoming trustees on Friday voted to extend UW President Tom Buchanan’s contract by another year through 2015.
The trustees’ decision came a day after Buchanan, in his yearly State of the University address, painted a rosy picture of UW’s current status, particularly the school’s enviable financial situation.
It’s the third time in as many years that UW trustees have voted to extend the contract for Buchanan, who has overseen a record-breaking period of growth at the university during his six years as president.
In addition to extending his contract, board members also specified that Buchanan will keep his UW car upon retirement. Trustees also created a full tuition scholarship for Buchanan’s only grandson, Bradley — a perk UW spokesman Steve Kiggins said “wasn’t uncommon” for major universities to give to top administrators.
However, Buchanan declined the board’s offer of a raise, saying he couldn’t accept a pay hike while other members of UW’s faculty and staff are under a salary freeze.
Buchanan will continue to serve under the terms of his current contract, under which he receives $350,004 per year, an annual $42,000 housing allowance, an estimated $6,000 for a UW vehicle and insurance, and 22 working days of vacation per year.
Buchanan also requested that, should he return to teaching after retiring as president, that his salary be less than he’s entitled to receive under university regulations.
During Buchanan’s tenure as president, UW’s campus has undergone more than $500 million in capital construction projects, as prosperous economic times during the last half of the 2000s led to an unprecedented influx of funding from the state and private donors.
UW has also entered into high-profile partnerships with the National Center for Atmospheric Research to build a supercomputing center in Cheyenne and with GE Energy to develop a small-scale coal-gasification research facility in Cheyenne. In addition, Buchanan helped shape legislation creating the state’s much-lauded Hathaway Scholarship program.
However, Buchanan received some criticism last year when he banned 1960s radical-turned-academic Bill Ayers from delivering a campus lecture on education theory. Buchanan said he made the decision out of concerns about violence, but a federal judge subsequently forced UW to allow Ayers to speak on campus.
“The Board of Trustees has tremendous confidence in Tom Buchanan’s leadership, and we continue to be impressed by UW’s progress during his presidency,” Board of Trustees President Jim Neiman said in a statement Friday. “The hallmark of Tom’s presidency has been the pursuit of excellence in teaching, research and service to Wyoming and, as a result, UW is on a forward trajectory to be among the top public universities in the nation.”
In his annual speech at the UW Union on Thursday, Buchanan lauded the state of the university, saying enrollment is at an all-time high and that private and public funding for the school is rolling in at a time when many universities across the country are in financial turmoil.
“I tried really hard to think of some bad news to give you, so that the good news might sound even better, but I can’t come up with much,” Buchanan said in his prepared remarks. “At a time when public support for higher education is foundering nationwide, we have unparalleled support from the people of Wyoming.”
Though the economic downturn forced UW, like other state agencies, to make a 10 percent budget cut in 2009, state funding to the university has remained fairly constant during the past couple years.
Last month, UW trustees included $20 million in employee salary increases in its 2013-14 budget request to the Wyoming Legislature.
However, UW students this school year are paying higher tuition rates for the first time since the 2006-07 school year: resident undergraduates are now charged $104 per credit hour, a $10 increase over 2009 rates.
Buchanan was a surprise pick as UW president in 2005. While serving as interim president following the resignation of Philip Dubois, Buchanan initially wasn’t selected by a search committee as one of the three finalists after an extensive search. But under pressure from faculty, the committee added Buchanan as a finalist. Immediately thereafter, the two remaining finalists both withdrew.
A native of New York, Buchanan received a bachelor’s degree in science from the State University of New York at Cortland, a master’s degree in science from UW, and a doctorate from the University of Illinois in environmental studies.
During the past 30 years, Buchanan has risen through the ranks at UW, starting as an assistant professor of geography before serving as department head, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and vice president for academic affairs.