The highest paid professor at the Thunderbird School of Global Management makes more than the dean of the Harvard Business School. Or his boss. Or, for that matter, President Obama.
Yet, he is little known outside his Glendale, Arizona-based school, not widely quoted in the media, nor broadly recognized as an expert in his field. He doesn’t even make the list of the top 50 business thinkers in the world.
Still, global strategy professor Kannan Ramaswarmy was paid total compensation, with benefits, of $700,096 in fiscal 2011, according to government records filed by Thunderbird. That’s more than the $662,054 in total compensation made by Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria or then-Thunderbird President Angel Cabrera who pulled down $584,749 in 2011. And it’s more than the estimated $550,000 in pay, benefits and perks that President Obama makes.
How in the world can a struggling school which has been in decline for many years afford to pay Ramaswamy so much? For one thing, he teaches in several of the school’s executive education programs which are among its more lucrative ventures. For another, he has tenure and the school can’t cross him off its employment roster even if it wanted.
Yet, he’s hardly alone in getting big pay at Thunderbird. In fact, the highest paid ten professors alone in fiscal 2011 were paid some $4.3 million, more than the $4 million deficit reported by the school, red ink that forced it into a highly controversial partnership with for-profit educational provider Laureate Education. Not surprisingly, perhaps, all of the most highly paid profs are men.
Andrew Inkpen, another global strategy professor, was paid $565,457 with benefits in the same year. Graham Rankine, an associate professor of accounting, was paid $492,908. The compensation for three other faculty members—Robert Hisrich, a professor of global entrepreneurship; William Youngdahl, associate professor of operations management, and Mansour Javidan, dean of research—all easily topped $400,000 a year.
Among the other top ten most highly compensated faculty at the school are John Mathis, a professor of global finance, who made $302,191; David Bowen, a human resources professor, who made $307,582; Dale Davison, a professor of accounting, who pulled down $261,789, and Humberto Valencia, a professor of global marketing, who made $260,109.
For just about all of these professors, of course, this is only the compensation paid to them by Thunderbird. Many faculty members also have lucrative consulting contracts with clients that can equal or vastly exceed their income from the school.
The school also has some very highly paid administrators. Thunderbird reported that it paid $366,343 in total compensation to Christopher Lee, its vice president for Russia, a person responsible for business development there. It also paid Tim Propp, the school’s chief business officer, $350,838 in fiscal 2011.
Nice work if you can get it.