President Emeritus Ainlay was Union’s highest paid employee in 2018-19

Akriti Dhasmana and Daniel Wilcox

President Emeritus Stephen C. Ainlay was the highest paid employee of Union College for the tax year 2018 -2019 receiving a total of $823,805, according to the most recent financial 990 forms filed by Union College, and provided to Concordiensis by the college. 

The 990 Financial Form showing pay of current President David Harris and President Emeritius Stephen Ainlay for the year 2018. (Courtesy of Union College)

This is following on from the $952,093 Ainlay received in his last year as President in 2017-2018.  Stephen Ainlay served as the President of Union College from July 1, 2006 to July 1, 2018 after which current president, David Harris took over this position. The revelation of Ainlay’s pay after leaving Union comes forward when 30 percent of Union’s workforce was furloughed in April 2020 at the onset of the pandemic, along with a salary freeze for all employees for the academic year 2020-2021.

The 990 Financial Form from 2017-2018 highlighting the payment of $952, 053 to Stephen C. Ainlay who was serving his last year as President in that period. (Courtesy of Guidestar)

This salary freeze resulted in the production of a letter on June 3, signed by more than 120 members of Union’s faculty, which called on the college administration to rethink this action. Suggestions were made to include employees affected by these salary freezes in the decision-making process and to make a greater use of the college endowment which, at the time of the 990 filing for the 2018 tax year, stood at $470,309,116. These were amongst other proposals. 

The financial records covering the 2018-19 academic year explain Ainlay as having been working 40 hours a week as a “Past President/Faculty”. When asked about the responsibilities associated with his position, College Spokesperson Phil Wajda said, “After his term as president, Stephen Ainlay transitioned into a faculty research appointment,” during which time he “focused on his scholarship.” 

Comparatively, President Emeritus Roger Hull had similarly received a total of $1,024,652 during his last year in office, in 2004. Both Presidents received bonus compensations in addition to receiving retirement contributions starting at the beginning of their employment at Union. According to Wajda, “The structure and nature of any compensation package for presidents of Union College are in line with peers at similar institutions.” 

The 990 Form from 2005 with the payment to President Emeritus Roger Hull in his last year of presidency highlighted. (Courtesy of Guidestar)

On December 12, 2018, The Daily Gazette noted that then-President Ainlay’s compensation for the 2016-17 academic year reached “top echelons”, with more than $2.3 million being paid out, as found from the college’s 990 document from that period. As mentioned in the article, at the time, the former chair of Union’s Board of Trustees, John E. Kelly III, explained that Ainlay had received a “one-time deferred compensation payment” which had been arranged before his second term as president began.

In comparison, in his first year President Harris was paid $468,656, with a base pay less than his predecessor for the same year. When asked about the reason for this difference between the salaries of President Emeritus Ainlay and President Harris, Wajda said, “The College does not comment on the compensation of individual employees.”