CARBONDALE - James E. Walker received a 22.2 percent raise Thursday morning, then turned around and reduced it to 8.8 percent.

In a move that caught the Southern Illinois University board of trustees off guard, the SIU president said he'll take $30,000 of a $50,000 annual salary increase and pump it into a new scholarship fund for top-flight Illinois high school students.

The move even caught close aide Scott Kaiser by surprise.

"I had no idea he was going to do that," Kaiser said.

Trustee John Brewster of Herrin also was stunned. Initially Brewster was at a loss for words.

"I don't know what to say," he said. "Your board is obviously very pleased with your performance during the past year … and your performance here today just pays additional dividends for students and this institution."

Walker walked into Thursday's board meeting with an annual salary of $225,000, a housing allowance of $27,500, use of a university car and health and retirement benefits. Total the package was worth $277,500.

The board completed Walker's first-year performance evaluation this week and agreed to give him a $50,000 salary increase. All other benefits stay the same, boosting the package's value to $327,500.

Walker said he came up with the idea of a contribution Wednesday night as he "worked the calculator."

The new scholarship program was a part of Walker's vision statement he presented last month. SIU will award $150,000 in scholarships to 30 of the brightest Illinois high school graduates each year. The scholarships will be $5,000 each.

"I really believe in those presidential scholarships, and it will help to get more of these top, bright Illinois students to come to SIU," Walker said.

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