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College of DuPage President Breuder to retire in 2016, receive $760,000

Members of the College of DuPage board approve the retirement plan of President Robert Breuder during a meeting Thursday.
Members of the College of DuPage board approve the retirement plan of President Robert Breuder during a meeting Thursday.

GLEN ELLYN – College of DuPage President Robert Breuder has announced he will retire, effective March 31, 2016.

The Board of Trustees accepted his retirement Thursday by a 6-1 vote, with Vice Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton voting against the acceptance. 

As part of his retirement, the college will pay Breuder a lump sum of $762,867.77, according to new board-approved contract provisions. Board documents also state Breuder will help the college select its next president and that the Homeland Security Education Center will be named after Breuder.

Breuder's contract originally ran through June 30, 2019.

Breuder did not respond to media questions after the board's meeting Thursday, but in a news release from the college he said he's planning to help the board move forward.

"Between now and then I will continue to help ensure our college remains well positioned for the future," he said in a letter to the board announcing his retirement.

Board Chairwoman Erin Birt said the board was informed in April 2014 that Breuder intended to retire. 

Hamilton had strong words regarding the severance payment Breuder will receive. She spoke during public comment, calling the lump sum a "wanton betrayal" of the college. She felt the board should dismiss Breuder over the public fallout that arose in recent months.

"I say 'no' to the golden parachute," Hamilton said. "And 'yes' to getting rid of Breuder."

She also took issue with how the process of Breuder's retirement approval was handled.

"I think the board did a bad job of not including the community," Hamilton said.

Birt said the documents were confidential, and not to be distributed until after board approval.

Adam Andrzejewski, founder of Elmhurst watchdog group For The Good of Illinois, wanted the college to conduct a full cost study of the severance pay to determine how it could be used.

"We need clarity on whether or not the lump sum will count as pensionable salary," he said. "If so, Breuder's pension will rival his current working salary."

Trustee Kim Savage was pleased with the retirement plan, and said Breuder has done a lot of good work for the college.

"We now have an institution that is a desired institution to come to, not an institution of second choice," she said.

Breuder has been the college's president since 2009. He previously served as president at the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, Penn., and Harper College in Palatine.

During his time at College of DuPage, Breuder helped pass a $168 million referendum, establish 70 new programs and complete $550 million in campus improvements, according to a college news release.

The school and Breuder have been in the spotlight during the past six months, starting with an email that leaked in July. The email from Breuder to board trustees addressed freeing up $20 million the state set aside for building demolition at the college.

In the email, Breuder suggested finding options that would be "politically attractive" to the governor's office, such as constructing a teaching and learning center with the money.

The governor's office responded to the leaked email by saying it would not provide the $20 million.

There was substantial fallout as a result of the email. In August, the board voted 5-2 to censure Hamilton for "inappropriate and embarrassing conduct" when she misled the public about the email, according to the censure resolution.

The college Faculty Association in September voted no confidence in Breuder – an action the board has not publicly addressed.

In October, For The Good of Illinois claimed the school was hiding $95 million from trustees using imprest payments, which are less than $15,000 and do not require board review.

A recent audit by Crowe Horwath LLP gave the college a clean bill of financial health. The board voted unanimously not to audit the imprest payments.

In December, the board voted to approve an audit of the college radio station, despite its prior acknowledgement of the potential that fraud had taken place there a year earlier.

In a statement released last week, the College of DuPage denied any communication with Elmhurst College about College of DuPage's former radio engineer being convicted of theft while working at Elmhurst College.

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