Kent State University has another element that may help in the search for the 12th president of Ohio's second largest university.
The university's board of trustees formally established a presidential residence Tuesday at 1501 Elizabeth Court in Kent's River Bend neighborhood — a house formerly owned by Kent State President Lester Lefton and his wife, Linda.
The formal vote to establish the residence follows action last month by the university to enter into a lease agreement with Shaker Heights, OH, attorney Edward Cochran, who bought the house from the Leftons in April for $700,000.
The lease agreement stipulates the university will lease the house as the official presidential residence for a period of 20 years, until 2033, from Cochran for $56,000 annually.
If executed to its full length, the lease would cost Kent State $1.12 million.
Jane Murphy Timken, chair of the university trustees, said the contract allows the university to opt out of the lease at the end of every sixth year of the term.
"The trustees concluded that this would be the best use of the university finances in terms of procuring a university" residence for the president, Timken said.
Lefton will be permitted to continue living in the house while the search for the next president moves forward.
The trustees also voted Tuesday to approve a new employment agreement with Lefton that removed his housing allowance. Previously, the university paid Lefton a housing allowance of $65,000 annually in addition to his base salary of $409,607 and other compensation.
Lefton's original contract, approved in 2006, included a $50,000 annual housing allowance. Trustees bumped that up to $65,000 in 2009 to cover maintenance costs. And in 2009, in addition to the allowance, Lefton was paid a one-time payment of $25,000 for cleaning expenses.
The new employment contract – devoid of a housing allowance — stipulates that Lefton must reside in housing provided by the university, which now constitutes the house in River Bend.
The house will likely play a role in the search for the next president of Kent State, as Lefton's retirement is effective July 1, 2014.
The university has had multiple, official presidential residences throughout it's 100 year history. Past presidential residences at Kent State have included the Williamson Alumni Center, at the corner of East Main Street and Midway Drive, and a house on Overlook Drive in Kent's University Heights neighborhood.
Former Kent State president Michael Schwartz was one of the last presidents to live in the Williamson Alumni Center, now home to Kent State's Alumni Association, before moving to the Overlook Drive house.
In 1988 Kent State started offering a housing allowance to presidents.
Timken said that the trustee board has for some time sought to establish an official presidential residence.
"Most universities have a presidential residence," she said.
Lefton said the board felt it was important the president live in Kent, as Lefton's predecessor, Carol Cartwright, lived just outside city limits.
"There are really only one or two neighborhoods in the city of Kent that have homes of the appropriate size," he said. "It turns out that the home that I ... built is big and it was made for entertaining. It lends itself toward entertaining ... and it's proved itself to be sort of a worthy and appropriate place."