‘A time to dream new dreams’

Kate Bigam

Board of Trustees approve Tulane Provost Lester Lefton as Kent State’s president-elect

President-elect Lester Lefton puts on a Kent State hat and holds up a shirt at a press conference in Risman Plaza yesterday morning. In his remarks Lefton said, “I’m proud to become a Golden Flash, and a part of your community.” MELISSA GAUG | DAILY KENT

Credit: Steve Schirra

 The Kent State Board of Trustees voted unanimously yesterday to appoint Lester Lefton, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at Tulane University, as Kent State’s 11th president.

Lefton, who has 34 years of experience in higher education, will replace President Carol Cartwright, who announced her retirement in October. Cartwright vowed to stay at Kent State until the board named her successor.


Streaming video of Lefton’s press conference, courtesy of TV2.

Lefton will take office July 1.

The 17-person presidential search committee, led by chairwoman Sandra Harbrecht, chose Lefton as the sole finalist for the position of president.

“We ended up with what we believe is the accomplishment of our goal,” said Doug Cowan, Board of Trustees chairman. “We had one goal, and that was to find the best president possible for Kent State.”

At a press conference following the board’s vote, Lefton told a crowd gathered in Risman Plaza he would work to promote Kent State’s reputation on both a local and national level.

“This is a time to dream new dreams – inclusive dreams, dreams of a new university,” Lefton said. “We will turn our aspirations into reality – a university marked by excellence in every aspect.”

Lefton cited academic excellence as the top priority of a university president.


“I want every single student at Kent State to have a life-altering intellectual experience,” Lefton said. “Life altering.”

A Boston native who has both a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate in psychology, Lefton, 59, has worked at Tulane since 2001. Prior to taking the job in New Orleans, he served as dean of the college of liberal arts at the University of South Carolina and later as dean of arts and sciences at George Washington University.

In 2005, Lefton was a candidate for the presidential position at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. And although he told the William and Mary presidential search committee he was not interested in working at a large university, Lefton said yesterday that Kent State offers students invaluable networking resources.

“The opportunity to serve 33,000 students in eight different communities presents an enormous opportunity to affect the lives of students in a positive way,” Lefton said.

He said the city of Kent offers students the chance to interact with business and financial industries in nearby Akron and Cleveland, and he said he will strive to form partnerships with businesses in these cities to help students find internships and jobs.


See a PDF transcript of Lefton’s remarks to the university here.

Although Lefton has held multiple positions at various universities during the past three decades, he said being chosen as Kent State’s president is the pinnacle of his career.

“I have no further aspirations,” Lefton said. “I couldn’t be any happier. This is the peak of my career, and they’ll bury me here.”

Lefton will begin at a salary of $350,000, Cowan said, which is $80,000 more than what Cartwright was making as of November 2005.

Cartwright said she fully supports the Board of Trustee’s decision to hire Lefton.

“Kent State’s president-elect brings with him broad experience and wide respect in higher education, as a scholar and a leader alike,” Cartwright said. “I will pass the leadership torch with complete confidence in the future of this magnificent institution.”

Contact administration reporter Kate Bigam at [email protected].