Western’s Chancellor donates bonus for employee scholarship fund

CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University Chancellor John W. Bardo is donating bonus money recently awarded him by The University of North Carolina to create a $10,000 endowed scholarship fund in honor of his wife, Deborah, that will benefit children and grandchildren of Western employees.

Bardo, who is among 11 of the 16 University of North Carolina system chancellors awarded a one-time bonus by the UNC Board of Governors, announced at the opening of his “State of the University” address that he is donating the after-taxes portion of his bonus to launch the scholarship.

“I greatly appreciate the faith in the chancellors that this action shows, as well as the recognition that, like all other salaries in the system, chancellors’ salaries are no longer competitive,” Bardo said. “But at Western, this is a time when many people are experiencing economic distress. A number of our employees are not able to afford health care for their families, and they are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.”

State employees received a $625 salary increase in 2001, no raises in 2002, and a one-time $550 bonus in 2003, while premiums for the state’s health insurance program have steadily increased, including a 17 percent hike for family coverage that went into effect Oct. 1. About 900 of the state’s lowest paid workers received word earlier this month that they would receive salary increases averaging $533 to lift them above the poverty level.

“One of the most critical times for families is, of course, when they send a child to college. The financial demands on the family only increase the stress,” Bardo said. “Therefore, Deborah and I have decided to donate the net proceeds of my bonus, as well as additional personal funds, to create an endowed scholarship for the children or grandchildren of Western’s employees.”

Bardo has asked that the scholarship be named the Deborah J. Bardo Employee Scholarship, in recognition of “Deborah’s critical role in my being able to successfully work as chancellor.”

Preference for the scholarship will be given to children or grandchildren of SPA employees – that is, staff members who are subject to the State Personnel Act and are not faculty members or senior-level administrators. The scholarship will be awarded to an incoming freshman to help defray the upfront costs associated with the first year of college.

Bonuses for UNC chancellors – including the $15,914 bonus to Bardo – were announced Jan. 23 by the Board of Governors at the recommendation of system president Molly Broad. The total amount being donated by the Bardos to the university’s Development Office is not set because the bonuses are being paid through the normal payroll system, with taxes, Social Security, retirement and other benefits being withheld. The fund, however, will be endowed at a minimum of $10,000, Bardo said.