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Kent State Formally Creates Presidential Residence

University agrees to lease house in River Bend neighborhood for $56,000 annually

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."

great deal for all those involved: lefton sells his property for more than it's worth, the new owner is guaranteed annual rental income far beyond market value and the incoming president gets a decent home for free. isn't it wonderful how things work out for (some) people?
Ron Wood May 15, 2013 at 01:29 PM
Do they not have a math department on the hill ??? I wonder if any of the "brains" or trustees at KSU would have spent any of their money in this mannor? It's the same old story, more brains with NO common sense running a large business spending other peoples money!!! Does anyone know the relationship of the attotney to KSU? Collusion anyone??
Matt Fredmonsky May 15, 2013 at 02:03 PM
Both Lefton and trustee Timken said they were unsure how Cochran became involved when asked yesterday. Lefton said he did not know him personally.
Concerned Neighbor May 15, 2013 at 03:27 PM
Wish I had a shot at buying the house and renting it at that price. If he sells it for $700k in 20 years, he makes a cool million, minus maintenance. Who pays utilities?
soldiermom11 May 15, 2013 at 05:29 PM
If I was a parent paying the tuition at Kent State I would be pretty mad. Why all this coddling? I hope this guy is the best fund raiser in history to pay Kent back for this luxury.
robert May 15, 2013 at 07:18 PM
What else is new ??? The Great ex presidential home on east main st. wasn't good enough for Madam Dingelberry (Ex Pres ). Only 90 % of Kent residence would love to live there but after all who wants to live on campus .That is why 60 some % of Kent residence are KSU rental properties. Oh what the heck there is no common sense at KSU for instance ,look who the had speak at the May 4th fiasco . Nun other than the most radical anti American jerk Bill Ayers !!!! Good Gravy !!
Linda Guyas May 15, 2013 at 07:52 PM
I am speechless.
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! May 16, 2013 at 06:56 PM
Wow. Kent write, Kent read, Kent State.
dominic m petrella May 19, 2013 at 02:32 PM
at over 400,00.00 per year let the next president pay for his own place.
David Reith May 19, 2013 at 09:12 PM
I personally think a college president should live on campus, visible and available. And what if the next man or woman doesn't like the place? The old place on Main street is perfect.

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