Search committee sold by Lefton’s enthusiasm, energy

Rachel Abbey


• Sandra Harbrecht, chair: vice chair of the Board of Trustees.

• Patrick Mullin, vice chair: member of the Board of Trustees and Foundation Board of Directors.

• Charlene Reed, search coordinator: secretary to the Board of Trustees.

• Nawal Ammar, member: professor and graduate coordinator of justice studies and interim director of women’s studies.

• Gary Brahler, member: president of the Alumni Association National Board of Directors.

• Timothy Chandler, member: dean of the College of Fine and Professional Arts.

• E. Thomas Dowd, member: outgoing chair of Faculty Senate and professor of psychology.

• Daniel Fuller, member: associate professor of English, Tuscarawas campus.

• Erin Hancock, member: president of Graduate Student Senate.

• Eunsook Hyun, member: professor of curriculum studies and higher education administration.

• Jamie Jackson, member: manager of client services.

• Felix Offodile, member: chair and professor, management and information systems.

• Bill Ross, member: former executive director of Undergraduate Student Senate.

• David Ruller, member: Kent city manager.

• Denise Seachrist, member: interim dean of academic and student services, regional campuses.

• Brian Tucker, member: member of the Board of Trustees.

• Linda Walker, member: associate professor of music and director of the Kent State University Gospel Choir.

• John West, member: vice president of research, dean of graduate studies.

Source: Presidential search committee

Lester Lefton’s passion for the job was one of the things that impressed the search committee most, members said.

“His energy, his enthusiasm, his absolute drive: In the end that’s what sold the board, I think,” search consultant Jerry Baker said.

Baker said he sought Lefton as a candidate. He did not apply for the position.

The committee chose Lefton as its candidate about four or five weeks ago, search chair Sandra Harbrecht said, and had him meet the Board of Trustees about two weeks ago. Lefton visited Kent State’s campus four times, but only the board and the search committee knew who he was.

Harbrecht said the committee met with other candidates but would not say how many people it considered. The committee is still keeping names confidential in order to avoid putting anyone’s current jobs in jeopardy, she said.

“The best candidates have great jobs, and people love them,” Harbrecht said.

Harbrecht said Lefton’s enthusiasm for the university made an impression on the committee. He had researched and knew a lot about what he liked about Kent State before the committee met with him for the first time.

“He had done his homework,” Harbrecht said.

Bill Ross, student representative on the committee and former USS executive director, said Lefton was able to point out to the committee what stood out to him about Kent State rather than just generalizing. He said Lefton’s focus on the “student experience” will be important, and he can picture him attending athletic and academic events.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to see him calm down,” Ross said.

Everyone on the committee had specific areas of interest they hoped to see the next president improve, committee member Linda B. Walker said. For example, as the only black member, Walker said she wanted to know what Lefton had to say about diversity. She said she thinks he really believes in it and will make good progress.

The way the faculty representatives such as Walker on the committee interacted with Lefton played a big role in choosing him as a candidate, Harbrecht said.

Controversy arose earlier this semester when faculty groups became afraid the university would choose a more business-oriented president rather than an academic leader.

E. Thomas Dowd, faculty representative on the committee, said Lefton is both a scholar and an academic leader.

“(I had to) make sure the person we brought in was an academic, not a corporate type,” said Dowd, outgoing Faculty Senate chair.

Contact administration reporter Rachel Abbey at [email protected].