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Jarvis leader tops in area college president salaries

By Meredith Shamburger
Dec. 30, 2017 at 11:06 p.m.
Updated Jan. 2, 2018 at 9:47 a.m.


When Jarvis Christian College President Lester Newman took over the reins of the small Wood County institution, it had about 200 students and was facing academic and financial crises.

But Newman turned the college around, and board of trustees Chair Torry L. Edwards said the board takes that into consideration when determining his salary.

Newman topped a survey of area colleges and university president salaries with a total compensation of $509,342. That number is based on the college's most recently available tax return for fiscal year 2016, although Edwards said the number on that form distorted Newman's actual salary, and the college is working with the IRS to fix it.

Clarification on the issue was not immediately available because college staff is on holiday break.

Newman is followed by LeTourneau University President Dale Lunsford, at $412,473, and new University of Texas at Tyler President Michael Tidwell at $400,000.

Compensation data was gathered for public and private colleges in the region from publicly available documents. Private college data is taken from the schools' most recent tax returns, which lag a year behind public school information.

The survey of data looked at each president's total compensation, which can include things such as incentive bonuses, car allowances and housing.

Based on tax returns, Newman earned $485,342 in reportable compensation for the 2015-16 fiscal year. He also received $24,000 in other compensation. That's compared to $207,061 in reportable and $27,812 in other compensation for 2014-15 and $199,938 in reportable and $40,472 in other compensation for 2012-13.

"Dr. Newman, what we're paying in salary, the economic benefits to the institution greatly outweigh (it)," Edwards said.

Edwards said Jarvis Christian College has given Newman long-term deferred incentives in addition to his base salary, based on annual evaluations of his work.

And the job Newman has done for Jarvis since arriving five years ago has been remarkable, Edwards said.

Jarvis had critical concerns when Newman arrived, "issues that almost caused the doors to close," Edwards said, including whether it could keep its academic accreditation. Edwards said Newman has successfully worked to address credibility issues, stabilize finances and bring in needed academic professionals, along with things such as increasing the student population to almost 1,000 students and making improvements to campus buildings.

Newman is the college's 12th president, taking office in April 2012. He previously worked as executive assistant to the president and director of administrative management programs at Wiley College in Marshall and worked in various positions at colleges and universities throughout the South.

He is a board member of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas and the Council of Independent Colleges and is an institutional director with the United Negro College Fund.

Lunsford, the second-highest compensated college president in the area, joined LeTourneau University in 2007. His tenure includes launching several undergraduate and graduate programs and shepherding several new facilities on the main Longview campus and at East Texas Regional Airport.

LeTourneau's most-recent tax return, for 2015-16, shows he earned $379,183 in "reportable" compensation, as well as $33,290 in "other" compensation.

Meanwhile, Tidwell joined UT Tyler this year.

A salary supplementation report for the school, for fiscal year 2017, shows Tidwell earning a base salary of $65,945. His salary is supplemented by $334,055 from restricted funds from the Lindsey Income and the Ben R. Fisch Endowed Professorship.

Among salaries for area junior college leaders, Tyler Junior College President Michael Metke is tops with $271,107 followed by Panola College President President Gregory Powell at $230,092.

Kilgore College President Brenda Kays was compensated $210,000 in fiscal year 2017.

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