Lester Lefton’s tenure at Kent State

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May 9, 2006

Lester Lefton, a top administrator at Tulane University, is named the 11th president of Kent State University. He will begin July 1 with a base salary of $350,000, the second-highest salary for a state university president in Ohio.

July 2006

Lefton shares his vision of Kent State rising to among the top 100 universities in the country — even if it takes 10 years.

March 2007

Kent State drops its 7-year-old “Imagine” campaign — its first real advertising effort — in favor of “Excellence in Action” and increases its ad budget to about $745,000, more than double the sum spent just two years before.

June 8, 2007

Kent State University, the world’s leader in LCD research and development for 40 years, dedicates its new Centennial Research Park. Lefton says the facility is not a place for secret research behind closed doors, but for “tenants who want to join intellectual forces.”

Sept. 19, 2007

Lefton is given a 5 percent raise and $70,000 bonus for his work over the last year. Trustees credit Lefton for increasing enrollment by 1.3 percent.

Sept. 24, 2007

Details of a report to KSU trustees by Lefton include costs associated with a trip to university programs overseas that totaled nearly $40,500 — including hotel accommodations of at least $1,800 a night while he and his wife were in Florence, Italy He has also added administrators to the KSU payroll.

Nov. 7, 2007

Kent State University creates a commission to make the university more welcoming to gays, minorities, women, the handicapped, the aged and others.

March 2008

Kent State University hopes to expand its overseas offerings and develop more of an international feel by opening an office in Beijing. The China enterprise grew out of the vision of Lefton and Provost Robert Frank, both of whom have been to China.

May 28, 2008

Trustees give Lefton a 3 percent raise that brings his salary to $378,525 and a bonus of $70,000.

Aug. 27, 2008

Kent State trustees approve a new three-year contract for tenure-track faculty that gives faculty raises of at least 9 percent over three years, plus merit raises, new minimum salaries and domestic partner benefits for their unmarried partners.

March 18, 2009

Kent State announces a plan to trim its ranks of some faculty, staff and administrators. The year before, the university sustained the first operating loss in its history at $2.2 million and was on track to lose up to $3.2 million in 2009.

April 2009

Philanthropist Ron Burbick self-financed a $6.5 million renovation of the south side of East Main Street between Water and Depeyster streets in Kent. Kent State, by moving some marketing and communications offices to the upper floor of one building, marked the first significant presence of the university in downtown Kent.

June 4, 2009

Lefton and the 10 members of his cabinet announce that they will forgo their yearly raises in favor of an endowed scholarship. Plans are also announced to invest about $8.5 million to make the central plaza more inviting to students.

July 14, 2009

Kent State trustees agree to increase tuition by 3.5 percent, add new program fees for many students and award a $70,000 bonus to Lefton.

Sept. 16, 2009

Student enrollment surged almost 12 percent in the fall to a record 38,457 students.

Nov. 17, 2009

Kent State trustees agree to invest up to $200 million to improve the Kent campus, the first major upgrade since the early 1970s. The university will pay for the improvements by selling bonds and may pay back the bonds with a new, as-yet-undetermined student fee. Trustees also agree to extend Lefton’s contract an additional four years while it is later revealed that total compensation could climb 9 percent to $612,350 in 2009.

May 26, 2010

Citing a decline in state funding, trustees vote to raise tuition by 3.5 percent for both undergraduate and graduate students at its eight campuses while also increasing Lefton’s base salary by 3 percent, bringing it to $401,576.

Sept. 15, 2010

Trustees at Kent State agree to use a student fee to help pay for $250 million in improvements at its main campus. With state approval, the university would assess students $24 per credit hour to help pay for academic buildings. Campus improvements would include a new $40 million home for the university’s architecture program, a $40 million home for art, and $20 million for a renovated science building. The university also reports a record enrollment of 41,365 students, 7.6 percent more than the previous fall.

Sept. 21, 2010

Eric Fingerhut, chancellor for higher education in Ohio, rejects Kent State’s proposal to charge students up to $24 a credit hour for academic buildings but says he is willing to help find a way to pay for $250 million in improvements to the campus.

Oct. 15, 2010

Final fall enrollment figures make Kent State the state’s second largest state-supported university in Ohio.

March 9, 2011

Lefton says he intends to revive a plan to use student fees to remake the main campus.

June 2, 2011

Trustees agree to reward Lefton with an $80,000 longevity bonus as well as a $100,000 performance bonus.

June 30, 2011

Kent State announces it will hike tuition by the state-mandated limit of 3.5 percent in the fall.

Dec 13, 2011

Kent State trustees agree to take steps to acquire the independent Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine. The trustees also approve the purchase of three more properties between campus and downtown Kent at a total cost of $1.42 million. The purchases bring to 29 the number of parcels, costing $5.9 million, that the university had absorbed since 2009.

March 14, 2012

Trustees agree to borrow $170 million to fund a capital transformation of campus. KSU will issue $170 million in bonds and pay the money back through its operating budget. The decision comes a year after the university had to back away from a novel plan to charge students a fee of up to $720 a year to fund a $250-million campus makeover. Trustees also agree to hike tuition and room and board rates 3.5 percent, and acquire the Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine in Independence.

May 2012

A petition drive that could trigger a vote on the performance of Lefton is on hold pending “critical” negotiations with the faculty union.

June 6, 2012

Trustees give Lefton a $102,400 performance bonus. With an automatic, $90,000 longevity bonus that he also will receive in July, Lefton’s compensation for 2012-2013 will be at least $602,008. Trustees agree to spend $1 million to improve access on campus for the disabled and $9.1 million on infrastructure improvements to four buildings.

July 10, 2012

Kent State announces it has raised $265 million through its Centennial Campaign to benefit the university’s endowment, capital projects, operating needs and scholarships. The total was $15 million more than the goal.

Aug. 8, 2012

Kent State trustees unanimously approve a three-year collective bargaining pact with the faculty union.

Aug. 29, 2012

The Kent State University community gets its first look at about $186 million in campus improvements. The May 4 Visitors Center opens on the ground floor of Taylor Hall.

March 13, 2013

Trustees award Lefton a $104,450 bonus.

April 1, 2013

The university announces that Cleveland attorney Edward Cochran has purchased Lefton’s home, on Elizabeth Court in Kent, and trustees will consider making it the official home for KSU presidents at their next meeting, May 14.

April 17, 2013

Lefton announces his retirement effective June 30, 2014.

Source: Beacon Journal archives

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