Ego. Privilege. Dubious deal-making. Litigation. Oh what a tangled web former University of the Cumberlands president Jim Taylor has weaved. He claims he is owed a lifetime retirement package worth $395,000 per year. Transferable to his wife if he dies first. Nice. Including a car, phone, health insurance, and an on-campus apartment for use when he’s not in his Florida home. Wow. Just throw in Secret Service protection and this is essentially what we give our U.S. Presidents.
Not bad, huh?
And in a community that has a median household income of around $30,000. Amazing!
It looks like the same man who for decades mastered the art of buying (at cut rate prices) and destroying scenic and historic town property also knows a thing or two about the “art” of negotiating a retirement deal. This so-called “Taylor Agreement” apparently actually says you get paid “whether or not you work!” What kind of evil genius comes up with this stuff? Oh, maybe the kind who does it all off the hard working backs of kids and parents struggling to finance a higher education. In Appalachia where you’ll find some of the poorest of the poor. That’s who.
I don’t care how many millions of dollars Taylor has raised for the school during his career. Or how well others in his similar position have been compensated. How could he, with a straight face, even ask for this exorbitant lifetime royalty on charitable fundraising? What kind of example does that set for kids graduating from the University of the Cumberlands? Go out and serve the needy, change the world, do great things, and when you do make sure you get the perks and pay of a king.
In 2010, King Taylor facilitated the purchase of the Main Street house I grew up in from my father, Dr. E.L. Ballou. The beautiful white brick home was built in the 1930s by the Gatliff family, who were also instrumental in establishing the college during the early years. Taylor assured my dad multiple times that the old colonial home would be refurbished, but remain intact and be used as an alumni center. At the time, my mom was in failing health and the house was just too big for dad to maintain. It was a very emotional decision, but dad decided to move forward, in part, knowing the house would still be there. Instead, about a year after purchase, bulldozers arrived and leveled the home. Stories started circulating that the house had asbestos, that it was in such disarray that the college could not refurbish it. None of it true. I suspect it was some sort of covert face-saving campaign initiated by King Taylor. Other stories circulated that Taylor had planned on destroying the home all along. Hmmm. Not a stretch of my imagination.
I haven’t lived in Williamsburg since 1982, but I’ve returned often to visit. Each time, my heart breaks just a little more as I have seen Taylor’s version of progress. And now, to see this conflict play out in a very public way – sadly, I’m not surprised.