VCU provost named next KSU president

Madeleine Winer

Editor’s note: This story was updated from a previous version.

Beverly J. Warren was named Kent State’s 12th president at a special Board of Trustees meeting in the atrium of Rockwell Hall on Wednesday.

The board voted unanimously to appoint Beverly Warren, provost of Virginia Commonwealth University, to succeed Kent State President Lester Lefton when his contract expires July 1. About 100 people attended the presidential announcement.

“I believe that a university is formed by its people, and I’m so impressed with Kent State University,” Warren said at the board’s meeting. “My pledge is 24/7, high-energy commitment to this institution and to carry out the ideals you articulated to me so I can see them through for you.”

Warren, at age 65, has 25 years of experience in higher education. She has served as provost at Virginia Commonwealth University since 2010. She was appointed dean of the School of Education at VCU in January 2007 after serving as its interim dean since 2005 and associate dean for faculty affairs since 2003. Warren came to VCU in 2000 as a professor and the head of the School of Education’s Division of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.  

She previously served as a professor and chair at Lander University in Greenwood, S.C., and as associate professor and director of graduate programs at Appalachian State University, Boone, N.C. She was also a faculty member at Auburn University, at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., and at the University of Montevallo in Alabama.  

Warren has a doctorate in exercise physiology from Auburn University and a doctorate of education in administration of higher education from the University of Alabama. She earned a master’s degree from Southern Illinois University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Warren is a fellow at the American College of Sports Medicine and is an executive member of the national cradle-to-career educational partnership network.  

At VCU, Warren is co-chair of the president’s strategic-planning task force and chair of the president’s cost-containment task force. She chaired the university’s Equity and Diversity Committee and led the university to develop a five-year diversity plan for VCU.

Warren signed a three-year contract with a base salary starting at $450,000.

Richard Marsh, chair of the 17-person presidential search committee tasked to find Lefton’s replacement, said Warren stood out as the best candidate for her “inclusive leadership style and engaging personality.” Marsh was named the committee’s chair in May. In August, the university announced the rest of the search committee of administrators, faculty, students and community leaders.

“Dr. Warren stood out in a highly competitive field and is the sole nominee and has unanimous support from the Board of Trustees,” Marsh said at the board’s meeting Wednesday. “She is a proven leader, impressive scholar and has had academic success and success in the areas of diversity and inclusion. I’m sure the Kent State community will find her an inspiring leader and visionary.”

Lefton, who was praised for his eight years of leadership at the meeting, said Warren brings experience as a scholar and dynamic leader at VCU. He said her optimism, energy and willingness to learn and listen will make her a great match for Kent State.

“I know I pass this torch of leadership with confidence that the future of this institution is secure,” Lefton said. “I remember the exhilaration I felt when I stepped into the position as Kent State’s No. 11. I know Dr. Warren will feel the same Kent State pride as I do waking up every morning to the presidency.”

In an interview at the Board of Trustees meeting in September, Lefton said he hopes to focus on his family in California and his photography in retirement. He also has plans to start a higher education consulting firm called the LeftonGroup, which will help universities with presidential and executive coaching and strategic visioning.

Since Lefton became president in 2006, Kent State enrollment has increased 25 percent. The university has invested $200 million in campus improvements, including the construction of a new building for the College of Architecture, Environmental Science and Technology. It has also created the College of Public Health, the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and acquired the College of Podiatric Medicine during Lefton’s tenure.

Lefton has also helped to build town-gown relations with the extension of the Esplanade that now bears his name.  

Jane Timken, chair of the Board of Trustees, presented Warren with a Kent State football jersey with No. 12 on the back. (Warren is the 12th president of the university.) She also received a Kent State sweatshirt, gloves and scarf to combat the “polar vortex” of subzero temperatures afflicting much of the country Wednesday.

“I’m excited for the years ahead at Kent State,” Timken said. “I think Dr. Warren is the right choice to continue Kent State’s momentum. I think the university will find Dr. Warren to be warm, engaging and passionate about the success of our students, faculty, staff and community.”

Contact Madeleine Winer at [email protected].