TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With Florida State University moving closer to becoming a top-25 public university, the school's trustees on Friday bumped up President John Thrasher's salary by 7 percent and awarded him a $200,000 bonus.
Combined with a 1.4 percent raise given to all faculty, Thrasher's annual compensation package will increase from about $519,000 to $563,000, with the bonus paid on top of that.
The trustees also extended Thrasher's five-year contract, which he accepted when he took over the school in 2014, for another year and increased his retention bonus to $400,000, which he will receive if he stays for the full six years. The prior retention bonus was $225,000.
The contract extension must be ratified by the state Board of Governors, which oversees the university system.
Ed Burr, chairman of the FSU Board of Trustees, said Thrasher, a former House speaker, has done “an outstanding job” leading the school, which has about 42,000 students. Burr noted FSU has risen 10 spots in the U.S. News & World Report public university rankings over the last two years, reaching No. 33 in the latest survey, just outside the top-25 goal.
Burr also said Thrasher has not only been a strong advocate for FSU's interests but has drawn praise from university system leaders for advancing causes to help the entire system.
Thrasher said he was “humbled” by the board's action.
“I feel good about where we're going,” he said in an interview with The News Service of Florida. “The top 25 is not just a number, it's a value statement.”
Thrasher said one of his goals as a lawmaker was promoting legislation to designate high-achieving schools as “pre-eminent” universities, which would also provide them with additional funding. FSU and the University of Florida have reached that level, while the University of South Florida is expected to join them this year.
Thrasher said he was “proud” of the achievements of the other schools, including UF's rise to the top 10, for the first time, in the U.S. News & World Report public-university rankings. He said a top-performing university system helps the entire state.
“It's going to be a value to the state,” Thrasher said. “It's tells businesses that are going to move here that we've got an educated workforce.”
Improvements at FSU and the other schools have been aided by significant state funding increases.
“I give the Legislature a lot of credit for the investments they have made in higher education,” Thrasher said. “And I hope they continue to do it.”
Among future goals, Thrasher said FSU wants to increase its faculty, which would help lower class sizes, another important performance metric. FSU also wants to increase the number of graduate students.
FSU Provost Sally McRorie told trustees that the university is embarking on a plan to hire 125 new faculty members this academic year, the largest hiring effort in the school's history.
Thrasher, who turns 74 in December, said his stint as FSU president “is the best job I ever had.”
“And as I tell everyone, it's the last job I will have,” he said.