Bob Kerrey, whose ill-defined and lucrative role as president emeritus of the New School caused continual headaches for his successor, resigned the post on Friday, the New York institution announced.
Mr. Kerrey was under contract to serve as president emeritus through 2016, but he conceded in an interview in January that the position invited controversy.
"I think it's a good time to separate," Mr. Kerrey told The Chronicle on Friday. "I'll be trying to help them out as much as I can."
The decision was "largely mutual," Mr. Kerrey continued. "It's not my decision alone, but I'm completely confident it's the right decision."
Mr. Kerrey, a former Nebraska senator and governor, said his political ties and connections to big donors continued to be an asset to the university. Even so, some faculty members questioned whether it was appropriate to pay Mr. Kerrey $350,000 a year when he was occupied with a failed campaign to return to the U.S. Senate and other professional endeavors.
In 2010, Mr. Kerrey earned $3-million from the New School, making him the nation's highest-paid private-college president that year, which is the most recent year for which tax forms are available.
The $3-million figure included a $1.2-million retention bonus that New School trustees provided to ensure a smooth transition to Mr. Kerrey's successor, David E. Van Zandt.
In the interview last month, Mr. Kerrey said his contract described his emeritus position as "full time" and required that he obtain permission for any outside activities. But he did not get advance approval before accepting a post as executive chairman of the Minerva Institute for Research and Scholarship, a nonprofit arm of the for-profit Minerva Project, which bills itself as an online alternative for high-performing students.
Mr. Kerrey will continue to serve as a consultant for the New School through the end of the academic year, university officials said in a news release.
Mr. Kerrey would not discuss his compensation as a consultant or any other financial details of his separation agreement. Samuel Biederman, a spokesman for the New School, also declined to answer direct questions about Mr. Kerrey's pay, which should be disclosed in future tax forms.
"As president, Bob Kerrey guided the New School through a complicated period in the history of higher education," Joseph R. Gromek, chairman of the institution's board, said in the news release. "With the education landscape continuing to change, the New School is fortunate to have Bob as our ally and advocate."