Saturday, June 17, 2006

Shocked, I Say

Occasionally, I come across a newspaper story so entertaining that it merits retelling without comment. The June 9th issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education carried such a story (page A25), from which comes the following excerpt: "The University of Missouri at Columbia is having a difficult time making use of a $1.1 million donation that Kenneth L. Lay gave in 1999 to establish the Kenneth L. Lay Chair in Economics." According to the story the university offered the job to three different professors between 2000 and 2003, and all of them declined.

I will afford myself one small comment: a $1.1 million endowment would support a professorship whose annual salary would be around $60,000-70,000, plus benefits. This is only 1/3 to 1/2 of what a senior economics professor normally earns at a flagship research university. It's therefore entirely possible that Missouri can't fill the Lay Chair because its benefactor was too cheap, not because he's infamous. If Mr. Lay had instead donated $11 million, that chair would not have remained vacant for long.

[Update, July 6th: I guess it's now the Kenneth L. Lay Memorial Chair in Economics.]

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