Party of presidential proportions today

Tim Magaw

Lefton’s inauguration to take place in the M.A.C.

Lester Lefton has been president of Kent State for 301 days.

He’s attended Board of Trustees meetings, mingled with state officials, hired two new vice presidents and held the wagon wheel high after Kent State defeated the University of Akron football team last September.

But it isn’t until today that he’ll formally be inaugurated as the university’s 11th president.

“It’s a great tradition,” Lefton said about presidential inaugurations. “Although it’s not up there with winning a MAC championship, it’s a rare opportunity that few individuals get to take part in their lifetime.”

The inauguration ceremony is at 2:30 p.m. today in the M.A.C. Center. Following the ceremony, a reception with punch and cookies will be held in Risman Plaza for those wishing to greet the president. The reception’s rain location is the Student Center ballroom.

The inauguration ceremony and reception are free and open to the public.

Kathy Stafford, vice president for university relations and coordinator of the event, said Lefton’s inauguration has been being planned since last fall.

“It’s a pretty substantial project,” she said. “Lots of people need to be involved.”

Stafford said it’s not unusual for presidents to be inaugurated months after they start the job because they are usually hired between academic years – just as Lefton was.

“(Presidential inaugurations) take a lot of effort and planning,” she said. “It takes a lot of time. It was just too quick to get something together for the fall.”

Although the event has been being organized since last fall, Stafford said the festivities would be kept relatively modest. She said she won’t know the total bill until afterward but expects the cost to be relatively low. Stafford said the main costs would be for the dressing of the M.A.C. Center, the reception and the private inauguration luncheon.

“We’re trying to hold it as clean as we can and as efficiently as we can,” Stafford said.

She said the inauguration ceremony begins with a processional of about 200 representatives from Kent State and other universities. The processional will begin near the Gym Annex, wrap around through Risman Plaza and enter through the front entrance of the M.A.C. Center. Lefton said the processional also features students carrying gonfalons, which are banners representing each of the colleges on campus.

Sandra Harbrecht, chair of the Board of Trustees, will serve as the mistress of ceremonies for the event and open the ceremony with a welcome. The ceremony will feature greetings from Eric Fingerhut, chancellor for the Ohio Board of Regents; Cheryl Casper, chair of the Faculty Senate; Edward Moreira, chair of the Graduate Student Senate; Katie Hale, executive director of Undergraduate Student Senate and Gary Brahler, president of the National Alumni Board.

Stafford said Carol Garrison, president of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Scott Cowen, president of Tulane University, will offer remarks about Lefton because they have served as mentors to him throughout his career. Following their remarks, Lefton will be presented by his daughters, Sarah Lefton and Jesse Zilberstein, and installed as president by the Trustees.

Following the installment, Lefton will give his inaugural address that will outline his vision for his presidency, which will focus on making a Kent State a prominent public research institution.

Stafford said the community should attend the inauguration because this isn’t something that happens very often, especially at Kent State. The last presidential inauguration was Carol Cartwright’s, which took place in 1991.

Lefton encouraged the entire Kent State community to attend – especially students, insisting that this isn’t an event about just him.

“This is a Kent State celebration,” he said. “It’s about celebrating what we do here.”

Contact administration reporter Tim Magaw at [email protected].