University leases Lefton’s house for potential official presidential home

Alicia Balog

Kent State University will lease the Elizabeth Court home formerly owned by President Lester Lefton from its new owner, who bought the house from Lefton on March 29.

The Board of Trustees will vote whether to accept the resolution to establish the leased home as the official presidential residence at its May 14 meeting.

Examples of other Ohio universities that provide residential housing:

Youngstown State University spent $4.5 million in private funding to renovate a building called the Pollock House for its president to live in, according to the Youngstown Vindicator. The renovation was completed in Fall 2012.

Ohio State University’s University Foundation leases President E. Gordon Gee’s home to Ohio State. According to the Columbus Dispatch, the university pays $100,000 in maintenance a year.

Ohio University acquired its presidential residence in 1951 and President John C. Baker and his wife moved into the house in 1952.

The new owner, Edward Cochran, paid $700,000 for the property, according to the Real Estate Transfer division of the Portage County Auditor’s Office. Lefton paid $792,550 for the property in 2006.

Emily Vincent, director of media relations, said the Board felt the presidential housing arrangement needed to be addressed to get Kent State in line with other Ohio universities and will provide a “preeminent venue for hosting the institution’s distinguished members, friends, donors, and visitors and for carrying out other administrative, ceremonial and social duties,” according to a draft resolution.

“The board has wanted to secure an official presidential home for some time as it allows Kent State the stature it deserves as a major university worthy of top leadership,” said Jane Timken, chair of the Kent State Board of Trustees, in an email from Vincent. “This is a long-term view. Whether it’s five, 10 or 20 years from now, we’re ensuring that the university has a critical component of a competitive search package for attracting the next president.”

Vincent wrote in an email, Lefton will continue living in the home but will no longer receive his housing allowance.

Prior to this decision, Lefton received $50,000 per contract year to pay for his mortgage and property taxes and an additional $15,000 per contract year to pay for utilities and maintenance, according to his 2009 employment agreement.

Kent State used to provide housing for presidents until 1988 when Michael Schwartz was president. Vincent said the former presidential home is now the Williamson Alumni Center, where Alumni Relations is located. Since then, the presidents have received housing allowances to pay for their residences in Kent.

Check back for more updates.

Contact Alicia Balog at [email protected].