Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen's payday could move up

Board of Regents to consider rescinding summer deal

Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen talks with Rotarians on July 30, 2018, in Cedar Rapids. The ISU presid
Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen talks with Rotarians on July 30, 2018, in Cedar Rapids. The ISU president is asking the Board of Regents to rescind a new deferred compensation agreement and return to the plan’s original payout date. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Three months after the Board of Regents extended employment and deferred compensation agreements for all three of its university presidents, Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen is requesting a rescission that would allow her to receive a $475,000 payout next fall.

That’s when Wintersteen’s deferred compensation payment was scheduled for release, per her original 2017 contract that stretched through November 2022.

But when regents over the summer extended her employment into 2023 — along with her deferred compensation deal, which they bolstered with additional $200,000 contributions between Nov. 1, 2020 and June 30, 2023 — the board postponed what was supposed to be a $475,000 payment in November 2020.

So next week, the board will consider scrapping that June action and rescinding the extension of Wintersteen’s 2017 deferred compensation deal, allowing that one to run its course through 2020. It then will consider establishing a new deferred compensation deal to make annual contributions of $200,000 between 2020 and June 30, 2023, creating a second potential payday of nearly $600,000, according to board documents.

“The proposed change was at the request of President Wintersteen,” Board of Regents spokesman Josh Lehman told The Gazette.

Wintersteen, who became Iowa State’s first female president in 2017, from the outset received several compensation caveats, including the deferred payout in year three of her five-year contract and stepped raises built into her employment agreement. This fall, her base salary will increase to $590,000 — bringing it on par with University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld.

He, too. signed a new contract this summer extending his employment and deferred compensation through 2023. As with Wintersteen, the board extended Harreld’s initial deferred compensation deal — which was scheduled to pay him $1 million in 2020 — meaning he won’t see any of that until 2023.


But, as the board added contributions of $400,000 annually between 2020 and 2023, Harreld will get a larger $2.33 million payout once the deferred compensation is released.

University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook, hired in 2016 with a base salary of $357,110, over the summer landed a contract extension through June 30, 2025, with an option to renew for another two years through 2027.

His base pay, like the others, wasn’t amended. But Nook’s deferred compensation plan — which had been on track for a $200,000 payout in 2020 — was extended through 2025. Under the new terms, it will increase $25,000 through June 30, 2020, and then $100,000 annually from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2025. Nook’s payout will top $700,000.

When asked in June about the juxtaposition of tuition increases and other fiscal challenges with the presidential compensation bumps, Board of Regents President Mike Richards said he and his fellow regents are happy with the team of university executives and want to encourage their continued collaboration.

“There is a strong feeling that we have the right individuals to lead our public universities and that these people bring a diverse mix of skills,” Richards said. “Together, they are a very strong team that can help lead the entire State of Iowa regent system now and into the future.”

For the presidents’ respective deferred compensation arrangements, the Board of Regents has created compensation trusts that collect contributions “to be treated as the university’s income.” That could affect the money’s taxation, as the universities are federally tax-exempt organizations.

Bankers Trust Company of Des Moines serves as trustee and must invest the trust proceeds and all earnings, according to the agreements. It must reinvest any earned income back into the trust and keep detailed records of the activity.

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