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Kent State to Create Presidential Residence

University trustees will consider action in May to establish official president's house

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.

Walter Hamilton III April 02, 2013 at 10:45 AM
Nice Gig if you can get it !!! Dr. Lefton has been good for the University. A lot of progress has benn seen under his watch !! As a proud alumni, It's nice to see !! :)
Laurel Myers Hurst April 02, 2013 at 12:39 PM
Of all the houses available in Kent...was this the top choice? What about the Porthouse Mansion or another historical home? This is just another banal example of suburban blight.
Matt Fredmonsky April 02, 2013 at 12:57 PM
The Porthouse estate would have been a really cool choice, especially given their connection to Kent State in helping found the Porthouse Theatre and with Cyril Porthouse having served as a trustee. The university could have gotten it cheap to at the sheriff's sale, but I'm sure it would have needed some updating.
William Gibson April 02, 2013 at 02:17 PM
I wonder why the Lefton's sold the house to Cochran if they are still living there? And at a loss?
William Gibson April 02, 2013 at 02:20 PM
I impressed that Lefton's house is worth 700K. For that money, I would think the Porthouse estate could've been purchased AND updated substantially. Lots of property to maintain though.
Laurel Myers Hurst April 02, 2013 at 02:39 PM
Seems that President Lefton is ready to move on/up or retire within a certain period he's already made clear to the administration. People with money know that hard times (really hard times) are coming. Taking a $129,000 loss now won't seem like anything in three years. Or, if he's staying at KSU until retirement, he's hedging his losses now by living in a leased home rather than losing more of his investment. Plus, it helps another landowner to receive a steady lease payment from a government institution. Basically, the new landowner will be building guaranteed equity.
Resident of Kent April 02, 2013 at 03:54 PM
Makes me sick.
Geoff Thompson April 02, 2013 at 05:07 PM
Right move, wrong house/location. If the move is to serve the University's purposes then it should be adjacent to the campus. That would almost necessitate a new build. If the move is to cater to the desires of the current president then it is the wrong move. The next president will want something different and the result will be something that serves neither party's interests.
Laurel Myers Hurst April 02, 2013 at 05:19 PM
Exactly!
don schnee April 02, 2013 at 11:54 PM
why do i sense a bad smell when i hear of a lefton and university deal? i'm sure there's something here that won't be a good deal for the rest of us. especially for the effete elite in river bend.... a rental in their hood!
FillerUp April 03, 2013 at 09:14 PM
I have no issue with this program; don't other universities provide similar housing opportunities for their presidents? I'm also tires of hearing people complain about his salary when many of our coaches make almost as much as he does! If we want the best and the brightest to lead our university and our athletes then we need to be willing to pay accordingly. When the football coach was looking at offers before he left, everyone wanted to break the bank for him, how is this any different?
don schnee April 03, 2013 at 09:28 PM
who's saying coaches aren't overpaid? the entire self-serving heirarchy at all universities is a scam on us taxpayers. some try to equate their pay with heads of larger corporations. malarky! at least when coaches leave, their absence is felt. in the case of lefton, i doubt anyone would notice
FillerUp April 03, 2013 at 09:37 PM
You obviously haven't driven through downtown Kent
David Reith April 03, 2013 at 10:22 PM
I personally think a university president should live on campus and be visible to and available to students. Check and see what the Miami University's president's house looks like and where it is. And should Kent State get another president, is he or she locked into the house where the Leftons are now? What will it cost to break the lease? I would want, as KSU president, to live in the old presidential house, have campus security, and be part of the scene.
Sa;;y April 03, 2013 at 11:26 PM
fillerup - that was Burbick's doing in downtown Kent... and tax payers.
FillerUp April 04, 2013 at 12:37 PM
Sa;;y - there has also been a lot of help from Lefton as well. The hotel and conference center has nothing to do with Burbick. Don't get me wrong, Ron has done a lot, but the redevelopment of downtown Kent been with the help Ron Burbick (the catalyst), Dave Ruller and Lester Lefton. Yes the tax payers as well.

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