Under an FOI request, I received today from the University of Arkansas a memo from System President Donald Bobbitt to UA Chancellor G. David Gearhart on the terms of a financial agreement pertaining to his coming retirement July 31.

He’ll have a one-year sabbatical at current pay of $339,010 then return to a nine-month faculty job at 80 percent of pay, or $271,000. University faculty also qualify for contributions to the university retirement plan and health insurance benefits.


Gearhart announced his plans Monday. He cited a desire to spend more time with family. His decision followed a tumultuous period for the chancellor on a number of fronts, though his tenure also has seen a rise in enrollment on the Fayetteville campus and successful fund-drives.

A note from Bobbitt to Gearhart says:


Dave, here are the details we discussed: deferred compensation paid on 7-1-15, step down as Chancellor on July 31, 2015. Begin 12 month sabbatical on 8/1/15 at full chancellor’s salary (does not include deferred comp). Return to faculty to teach in August 2016 with a 9-month salary at 80 percent of your Chancellor’s salary. Please call if you have any questions.

System spokesman Nate Hinkel said the term “sabbatical” is officially known as “OCDA,” or off-campus duty assignment. The 80 percent figure for pay was not arbitrary but derives from board policy, he said. I have a followup question on whether that pay rate is permanent or temporary. UPDATE: I’m informed that the pay will continue at that rate as long as he remains a member of the faculty. Again, the deferred comp payments don’t continue.

Gearhart, 62, has been chancellor for almost seven years. He makes $339,010 annually, with another $225,000 in yearly deferred compensation. He had been on a three-year contract through June 30, 2014, but has been working on a month-to-month basis  along with other System chancellors hired by the previous System President B. Alan Sugg. Bobbitt has been working on a performance-based evaluation system, a plan he outlined in a June letter to Gearhart.


Gearhart is to serve on the faculty of the College of Education and Health Professions. No announcement has been made of what he will teach. Gearhart holds both a law degree and doctorate in education from UA, but has spent most of his working career in development, or raising money, for Westminster, Hendrix, Penn State and UA. He also worked for a time for a private consulting firm.

In a prepared statement Monday, Bobbitt said he was surprised by Gearhart’s decision but understood his desire to spend time with a growing number of grandchildren. He said, in part:

… There never is a good time to make these decisions, but the University of Arkansas is in a very strong position with record enrollments, a strong research portfolio and nationally recognized student achievement. The institution is also in the early stages of a campaign and I feel it is better to make a change at this point than at the latter stages of a  fundraising effort. I am sure Dr. Gearhart factored this into his decision.” ..

Bobbitt plans to hire a consulting firm to assist with a search for a new chancellor.