Lefton brings energy to KSU

Kate Bigam

Although he referred to himself as “the new guy in town,” President Lester Lefton said he is already learning the proverbial ropes at Kent State.

“I’ve slowly — and quickly — been indoctrinated into the traditions and the people,” Lefton said last week before classes began.

One example of this was evident when he realized he had learned his way around campus, he said. Last week, a student asked him for directions to the fashion museum, which the president happily provided.

“I’m looking forward to more student interaction,” Lefton said. “The students are back in full force. That’s what the university’s all about — the students.”

Although Lefton said his calendar is already booked through November, he uses what little spare time he has to meet students and their parents. He has begun socializing with them whenever possible, attending the Black United Students’ barbecue and stopping by other back-to-school events.

Lefton said he almost stopped at a residence hall late one night when he saw students sitting outside chatting, but changed his mind because he thought they might not be interested in talking to the president.

Freshman business major Sarah Gartner said although she has not met the president, she’d be interested in speaking with him if given the chance.

“I’d ask him if he enjoys his job, because it might be interesting to actually be a president of a school,” Gartner said. “That’s a hard job. I bet it’s intimidating.”

James Gaudino, dean of the College of Communication and Information, said he looks forward to seeing what Lefton will do for the university.

“I think he is bringing to us a great deal of energy,” said Gaudino, whom Lefton recently selected to head the search committee for a new provost. “He is asking us to think creatively, both to address some immediate issues that face us, such as retention of students, and he’s also asking us to think creatively about the future of the university and our individual units, saying ‘How do we continue to grow?'”

Gartner said because she wasn’t at Kent State when Carol Cartwright was president, Lefton’s new presidency doesn’t seem like a big deal.

“It matters, but not as much as to upperclassmen because I wasn’t here for the old (president),” Gartner said, adding that she has heard “really good things” about Lefton.

Overall, Lefton said he looks forward to his first year at Kent State and is encouraged by the positive attitudes of students, faculty and staff.

“I’m glad everyone’s back, everyone’s happy,” he said. “It’s all good. It’s all good news. There’s sort of an energy in the air.”

Contact administration reporter Kate Bigam at [email protected].