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June 8, 1995

Trustees' committee approves severance benefits for O'Connor

Under a severance package approved by the Board of Trustees compensation committee this morning, outgoing Chancellor J. Dennis O'Connor will receive $313,792 in exit pay between Aug. 1, 1995 and Dec. 31, 1996 in the form of a one-month vacation, a four-month administrative leave and a one-year sabbatical.

The payment is based on O'Connor continuing to receive his current salary of $221,500 and staying at Pitt through the end of 1996. If he takes a job outside the University before then, the pay will be pro-rated.

When O'Connor announced his resignation in April, it was agreed he would remain as chancellor until April 1996 or until a successor was hired, whichever came first. But following negotiations between O'Connor and members of the trustees executive committee, an early departure plan was worked out for O'Connor. Law professor Mark Nordenberg was designated as interim chancellor.

Under the early departure plan, O'Connor will take August 1995 as vacation. He will take an administrative leave from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, 1995. The four-month leave was offered under a Pitt policy, initiated in 1973, which allows administrators to take leaves of up to four months every four years, said Robert Dunkelman, secretary of the Board of Trustees. Former Pitt Provost Rhoten Smith, former nursing Dean Enid Goldberg and current business Dean H.J. Zoffer, among others, have taken leaves under the policy, said Dunkelman.

Following his administrative leave, O'Connor may take a sabbatical leave from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 1996.

In January 1997, O'Connor will have the option of returning to Pitt's biological sciences department as a tenured professor at an annual salary of $177,200. His salary will remain at $177,200 until the average salary of full professors in the department reaches that level.

When contacted by the University Times, David Burgess, chairperson of biological sciences, declined to reveal the current average salary of a full professor in the department. Officials in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) reported that the mean annual salary of a full professor in the natural science division of FAS is $69,247.

During O'Connor's administrative leave and sabbatical leave, and subsequently as a biological sciences professor, an "appropriate" faculty office, secretarial services and budget for professional expenses will be provided "as determined by the responsible academic administrators," according to the deal approved by the trustees.

The compensation committee also approved a fringe benefits package for O'Connor following his resignation on July 31, based on a phasing out of his current chancellor benefits. Among the benefits: * O'Connor will retain use of a University car for business and personal use until the end of his administrative leave Dec. 31, 1995, but he no longer will have a chauffeur after July 31, 1995.

* O'Connor and his wife Anne may remain at the chancellor's residence on Devonshire Road in Shadyside through the end of 1995. Pitt will pay their relocation expenses to another domicile in western Pennsylvania.

* After Aug. 1, 1995, O'Connor must begin paying his fees to the Duquesne Club and Pittsburgh Athletic Association, where he currently has University-paid memberships.

* If O'Connor remains at Pitt through 1996, the University will make the fifth and final payment of an $8,000 per year annuity for Anne O'Connor. The annuity, scheduled to become vested in 1996, was granted to O'Connor's wife when he became chancellor in August 1991.

* O'Connor will receive no special retirement benefits. But as long as he remains a Pitt employee he may continue to participate in the University's contributory retirement plan. Under the plan, an employee may contribute up to 8 percent of his or her salary to the TIAA-CREF or Vanguard retirement annuity plans, and Pitt will make a 1: 1.5 matching contribution.

In addition to approving O'Connor's package, the committee approved a $198,000 annual salary for Mark Norden-berg, who has been nominated by incoming board chair J. W. Connolly to serve as interim chancellor until a permanent successor to O'Connor is hired.

While the compensation committee is empowered to act for the full Board of Trustees in determining salaries and benefits, it cannot approve administrative appointments. Therefore, Nordenberg will have to wait until the board's June 22 meeting to officially be named interim chancellor.

Nordenberg, 46, is a Distinguished Service Professor in the law school, a former dean of the school and former interim provost. (See Nordenberg interview beginning on page 1.) Norden-berg said that neither he nor the Board of Trustees has ruled out his applying for the permanent chancellor's post. As interim chancellor, Nordenberg will receive the same benefits as other Pitt senior officers, including the contributory retirement plan, use of a University car, membership in one social/athletic club, a maximum of $5,000 per year for medical expenses not covered by standard employee health insurance, and personal liability coverage of $1 million to protect officers against claims incurred while conducting official duties.

Nordenberg told the University Times that he will not be moving into the chancellor's residence on Devonshire Road.

Today's compensation committee meeting was conducted by conference telephone call — the first time, at least in the last several years, that a trustees committee held a meeting without any of the members being in the same room, according to Dunkelman. Outgoing board chairperson Farrell Rubenstein led the meeting from a hotel room in Boston. The three other committee members who participated did so from phones in Pittsburgh and Meadville.

–Bruce Steele

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