Tulane provost expected to be next KSU president

Abbey Stirgwolt

Board of Trustees meets this morning to vote on only candidate put forth by search committee

Lester A. Lefton, senior vice president of academic affairs and provost of Tulane University, speaks about the future of Tulane at the University of Pennsylvania last October. PHOTO COURTESY OF IRIS LEUNG | THE DAILY PENNSYLVANIAN

Credit: Steve Schirra

Kent State is expected to announce today that Lester A. Lefton, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost of Tulane University, will become its 11th president.

Kent State’s Board of Trustees, in charge of making the final decision on administrative officers, will hold a special meeting at 10 a.m. after Lefton has met the Faculty Senate’s Committee on Administrative Officers.

The university wouldn’t confirm Lefton, 58, as the new president, saying only a “finalist” would be visiting campus. The Daily Kent Stater confirmed Lefton as the new president from three separate sources.

Lefton has been provost at Tulane for four years. Before that, he served as a psychology professor and dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

He spent 25 years at the University of South Carolina, where he held several professorial positions in addition to being director of graduate studies in general experimental psychology, director of undergraduate education in psychology and chair of the university’s psychology department. He was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences there until 1994, when he left for George Washington University.


Kent State Board of Trustees special meeting

When: 10 a.m.

Where: Urban Conference Room, 2nd floor of the Library

What: The Board of Trustees will meet with the presidential finalist.

All members of the university community are encouraged to attend the following to meet the finalist:

Press Conference

When: 11 a.m.

Where: Risman Plaza


When: 12:30 to 2 p.m.

Where: Risman Plaza

The announcement will end the six-month search for a successor to retiring President Carol Cartwright, who has been at Kent State for 15 years.

Sandra Harbrecht, presidential search committee chair, said the 17-member committee unanimously supported the candidate. She was quoted in e-Inside, the university newsletter for faculty and staff.

Harbrecht told the Stater she couldn’t comment further. Lefton couldn’t be reached for comment.

Neither Lefton nor any other candidate ever appeared in public at Kent State.

Lefton was a finalist for the presidency last year of The College of William and Mary, a public university in Williamsburg, Va., with an enrollment of 7,650, of whom about 5,700 are undergraduates.

He did speak to the faculty senate there.

Lefton had been thinking about becoming a university president for several years, he told the senate. “As provost at Tulane University, what I’ve been doing for the past four years is preparing me for this job,” Lefton said. “I have functioned as the chief operating officer of the university for the past four years, and in doing so have gained invaluable experience, which I think has made it easier for me to manage the college.”

In the address, Lefton outlined five goals he intended to accomplish if he was named president of The College of William and Mary:

• Raise money for the university. “It’s amazing you’ve been able to accomplish what you have with so little,” Lefton said.

• Manage financial resources. He would hire more development officers to work toward $1 billion for the university in the next decade.

• Retain William and Mary’s mission and continue to carry it out with more financial support. He said William and Mary wouldn’t have to reinvent itself, only have enough resources to do things better.

• Maintain a “public persona that is vibrant and that is passionate.” He suggested taking a bus tour of Virginia with two or three outstanding faculty and students to “tell with passion and zeal” why the state’s best students should come to William and Mary.

• Manage the athletics program to coordinate with academics. “I would work with (the athletic director) to make sure that we keep costs down low and help with fundraising so athletics are not taking away from the academic mission,” he said.

Contact technology reporter Abbey Stirgwolt at [email protected].