Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

Black Woman Physicist Tops List of Highest Paid College Presidents

November 14th, 2009 by Ajuan Mance


RPI president, Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson.


According to last week’s Chronicle of Higher Education,  Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson was the highest paid president of a private U.S. college or university during the 2007-2008 school year (the most recent year for which statistics are available). During that year, Jackson’s total compensation for her duties as president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) amounted to $1,598,247.

Jackson’s compensation is a reflection of her unprecendented success as a fundraiser and visionary for the institution. Next month, RPI will hold a weekend-long celebration to mark Dr. Jackson’s first 10 years as president, a period that the Institute refers to as the “Decade of Transformation.” A recent report in the Albany Times Union describes the success that has mark this decade as well as the planned festivities:

Aretha Franklin will perform at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in December as part of a weekend celebration called a “Decade of Transformation” that celebrates President Jackson’s 10 years on the job and the culmination of the $1.4 billion capital campaign she led.

And Franklin, who performed at Obama’s inauguration in January, is just the Friday- night entertainment. On Saturday, Joshua Bell, one of the world’s most acclaimed violinists, will wow the revelers with his 1713 Stradivarius. Both shows will be held at the $200 million Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center and will only be open to members of the RPI community, including students, staff and alumni, RPI spokeswoman Theresa Bourgeois said Monday.

“One of the premier voices of the world is going to sing at one of the premier venues in the world,” said Bourgeois, who is Jackson’s personal spokeswoman. “It will be spectacular, as is the transformation at Rensselaer, so it’s very appropriate they’re coming.”

The weekend of celebration will be Dec. 4 to 6 and will include public events that showcase improvements to the school under Jackson’s tenure, including the construction of EMPAC, the recently unveiled $92 million East Campus Athletic Village, the renovation of student living quarters and a doubling of student applications, Bourgeois said. She said the weekend is also designed to recognize the hard work of the “hundreds of people” who have transformed the school in the past decade, including gardeners who shaped the grounds, fundraisers and professors who expanded programs and labs.

The school did not immediately disclose a price tag for the event, though it is certainly well into the six figures as both performers are internationally recognized and regularly command significant fees.

Biographical Notes: Shirley Ann Jackson holds a B.S. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) and a Ph.D. in theoretical elementary particle physics, also from M.I.T. Her research interest is in “theoretical condensed matter physics, especially layered systems, and the physics of opto-electronic materials” (source:

Prior to her appointment as RPI president, Dr. Jackson was, “Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; a theoretical physicist conducting basic research at the former AT&T Bell Laboratories; and a professor of theoretical physics at Rutgers University” (source:

She and her husband, physicist Morris A. Washington (B.A. Fisk University, M.S. NYU, Ph.D. NYU), have a son, Alan (B.A. Dartmouth, 2003).

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Posted in African Americans, Current Events, Higher Education, race

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