Kent State University is looking to establish an official presidential residence for the school's top employee in the house where President Lester Lefton has lived since moving to Kent in 2006.
The university entered into a lease Monday for the house at 1501 Elizabeth Court in Kent's River Bend neighborhood with the property owner, Edward Cochran.
Cochran bought the house from Linda and Lester Lefton on Friday for $700,000 — about $129,000 less than the Leftons paid for it seven years ago, according to the Portage County Auditor's Office.
The president and his wife will continue living in the house.
Kent State spokeswoman Emily Vincent said the sale and lease is part of the Kent State Board of Trustees' eventual consideration in May of an official presidential residence.
"The Lefton’s sold their house to Edward Cochran … and the university has entered into a lease agreement with the new owner for the house," Vincent said.
In May the university trustees will consider a resolution to formally establish the official presidential residence at the house, which overlooks the Cuyahoga River in the neighborhood across from Theodore Roosevelt High School.
The ability to enter into the lease for the property with Cochran is within the university administration's power and did not require trustee action, Vincent said.
Jane Murphy Timken, chair of the Kent State trustees board, said the board has been wanting to establish an official presidential home for some time.
"It allows Kent State the stature it deserves as a major university worthy of top leadership," she said. "This is a long-term view. Whether it’s five, 10 or 20 years from now, we’re ensuring that the university has a critical component of a competitive search package for attracting the next president."
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.
Lefton's contract with Kent State stipulates that he receives a $50,000 housing allowance annually, but with the sale of his house and lease by the university he will no longer be paid the housing allowance.
Establishing a formal presidential residence is common practice at universities across the state and country.
In 2000, Ohio State University established a new presidential house thanks to the donation of Kent native Ron Pizzuti's $2.3 million house near Columbus.
In 2004, the University of Cincinnati established a new presidential residence in a condominium in Edgecliff Point tower.
For Kent State, securing an official presidential residence will bring the university in line with other Ohio public universities and the majority of research colleges nationwide, according to the draft resolution to be considered by the trustees in May.
"This action will serve the university’s best interests by providing a pre-eminent venue for hosting the institution’s distinguished members, friends, donors and visitors, and for carrying out other administrative, ceremonial and social duties," the draft resolution states.