LCSN: Couture to take helm at NMSU

November 20, 2009. Retrieved online November 20, 2009 from Amanda L. Husson, Las Cruces Sun-News

LAS CRUCES — Already sporting a crimson jacket and a broad smile, Barbara Couture entered the Regents Room on Thursday at New Mexico State University to a standing ovation and shouts of “Welcome to NMSU!”

Couture was appointed as NMSU’s first permanent female president Thursday as a standing-room-only crowd packed a special regents meeting and more than 400 others watched the proceedings online.

“Almost as soon as I set foot on this campus, I knew this was the place for us,” Couture, 61, told regents as her husband, Paul, sat beside her.

Couture, a senior vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, inked a five-year contract effective Jan. 1, according to Blake Curtis, regents chairman.

Her contract calls for a $385,000 annual salary, use of the president’s residence on Geothermal Drive and other perks like a vehicle and country club membership.

Interim President Manuel Pacheco’s contract is $325,000 per year, and previous president Mike Martin was earning $358,785 at the time of his departure in 2008, according to the university.

Most unique about Couture’s compensation package, Curtis said, is a $500,000 retention bonus, which Couture will only receive upon completion of the five-year contract.

“This reflects — not a request, not an outcry, but people screaming at the tops of their lungs, ‘We want someone to stay here!'” Curtis told the Sun-News. He emphasized that, unlike other retention bonuses in which a portion is awarded at the end of each contract year, Couture will receive the bonus only after completing the entire contract. Curtis said the extra incentive is crucial to meeting the need for continuity of leadership.

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