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Wine bar on 2200 Penn opens doors
By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

Knapp’s salary disclosed

Correction appended

University President Steven Knapp earned $298,178 during the first five months of his tenure at GW, according to a University financial disclosure report released in May.

At an average of just under $60,000 per month, Knapp’s five-month payment would equate to an annual salary of around $715,000, not including benefits. The financial disclosure form, called a form 990, also showed that President Emeritus Stephen Joel Trachtenberg received nearly $3.6 million plus benefits in 2007.

Though the University’s most recent form 990 is for the 2008 fiscal year – which runs from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008 – salaries for University officers are reported on a calendar year basis. The form released in May has figures for the 2007 calendar year.

Russell Ramsey, chairman of the Board of Trustees, said recruiting and retaining talented leadership like Knapp, who previously served as the provost for John Hopkins University, is expensive.

“Our goal is to hire and retain the highest caliber of executive leadership for the growth and success of the University, while ensuring that our compensation levels are appropriate and competitive,” Ramsey said in an e-mail. “We obtain and rely on appropriate comparability data from peer institutions, to assess the president’s compensation. President Knapp’s leadership, commitment to GW and three decades of higher education experience are critical to the success of the University.”

While the $715,000 figure is only an estimate based on his five-month payment, Paul Fain, a senior reporter who specializes in university presidential compensation for the Chronicle of Higher Education, said he is not surprised by Knapp’s salary.

“If you want to hire someone, like the provost at a place like Johns Hopkins, you’ve got to pay to get him,” Fain said.

While serving at Johns Hopkins, Knapp earned a reported $460,172 before benefits, according to the university’s form 990 from the 2007 fiscal year.

Knapp, however, said comparing the final salary reported from his last year as provost at Johns Hopkins to his salary as president of GW is not completely feasible, as part of his salary at Hopkins includes deferred compensation. Deferred compensation is the part of his salary that was paid after it was actually earned, Fain explained.

Knapp said he did not choose to take the job at GW for the salary.

“The answer is that I was excited about the terrific opportunities for education, research, and service available to a university located in the heart of the nation’s capital,” Knapp said in an e-mail. “With all that in place, it was clear to me that the university was now ready to advance to an even higher level of greatness and distinction.”

Knapp added he has tried to lessen the cost of some of the benefits he receives. According to the form 990, he received $80,359 in benefits in his first five months.

“One of the first things I did when I became president was trade-in the university’s Lexus SUV for a far smaller and more energy-efficient Prius,” Knapp said.

Knapp’s estimated salary is higher than the $691,204 Trachtenberg made during his last full year as University president, according to GW’s form 990 from the 2007 fiscal year. But Trachtenberg, who stepped down July 31, 2007 after almost two decades as University president, received a total of $3,578,566 plus $86,003 in benefits by the end of 2007, the most recent financial documents show. Trachtenberg was unavailable for comment.

Sarah Baldassaro, assistant vice president for communications, said Trachtenberg’s compensation was broken down into two components.

“The first component is a longevity bonus,” Baldassaro said. The second component was a payment for paid sabbatical leave that Trachtenberg had not utilized.

Both of these compensations are typical for university presidents to receive, Baldassaro said.

“A compensation committee incentivized President Trachtenberg in this way, which is a common executive compensation term to encourage him to stay the length of time the Board of Trustees believed necessary to bring about desired change at the University,” Baldassaro said.

Fain, who helps compile a yearly report on compensation for university presidents, said the $3.6 million compensation Trachtenberg received was not surprising based on his long tenure at the University.

The article originally referred to Paul Fain as Paul Sain. The name has been corrected.

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