Burch’s transition to retirement saves WKU money

Barbara Burch served as Faculty Regent on the Board of Regents for three years from 2014 to 2017.

Emily DeLetter

Citing both a personal readiness and a desire to help WKU’s ongoing budget crisis, Provost Emerita Barbara Burch has gone into transitional retirement.

As former provost, former faculty regent and current professor in the School of Teacher Education, Burch said she felt this change came at the right time.

“I was at a point in my life where I felt that it was still possible for me to do things professionally with WKU while still serving the university,” Burch said. “I’m blessed to have had so many years in higher education, and I felt like I could still do the things I want to do from transitional retirement instead of being full time.” 

WKU’s Transitional Retirement program was first implemented in 1989, according to its website. Faculty who go into transitional retirement teach between six and 12 semester hours per year and receive 37.5 percent of their previous full-time salary. After completing five years, they fully transition into retirement.  

 Burch began her transitional retirement July 1. She said she had not fully thought about going to transitional retirement until the “circumstances of the university’s budget” became more apparent to her. 

“I thought that it was maybe time to think about how I could still do something I loved and not be as draining to the university,” she said. “It was a move that made sense for me personally and was also coincidentally helpful to WKU’s budget. I didn’t go out to be a great martyr and take a big salary cut.”

Former Provost and current WKU Historian David Lee, who has also recently entered transitional retirement, said he was surprised to learn of Burch’s change to transitional retirement.

“She is such a high-energy person,” Lee said. “I’m sure her idea is going to be a lot more work than a lot of folks would put in. Whether she’s in transitional retirement or fully retired, she’s always going to be very involved with WKU.”

Lee said it “seemed time to move into a different status after working for WKU for 43 years” and stepped down last year from Provost to University Historian.

There are currently 13 WKU faculty in positions of transitional retirement, according to a document on the budgeted salary information for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.  

According to the document, Burch makes $75,492 in her transitional retirement. As provost, Lee made $231,816 per year and now makes $65,208 as historian.

It’s not uncommon for WKU faculty who were in former high-paying administrative positions to keep their higher salary. Pam Johnson, a professor who was the former director of the School of Journalism and Broadcasting (SJB) and a current professor within the school, still maintains a salary of $99,780, even though she no longer has the director’s position and is teaching just one course during the Fall 2018 semester. This salary is second only in the SJB to the current interim director.

Gordon Emslie, who stepped down from being provost in 2015 teaches a total of 13 hours in the Physics Department during the Fall 2018 semester. He makes $214,644.

Reporter Emily DeLetter can be reached at 270-745-6011 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @emilydeletter.