Kent State Touts Lefton's Achievements

11th president of Kent State to retire effective July 1, 2014

As part of this morning's news that Kent State President Lester Lefton is retiring the university's communications office distributed a list to media of Lefton's accomplishments during his seven-year tenure thus far.

Lefton's legacy is clear. He helped spark hundreds of millions of dollars in expansion projects both on campus and in the Kent community.

It's a bit early to say how that legacy will endure and what it's lasting effects will be, but it's worth noting the accomplishments.

There are certainly a lot of them. Here are the 14 bullet points the university distributed to local media this morning. They're worth taking a look at:

  • Kent State has solidified its position as Northeast Ohio’s #1 public university – leading in enrollment, graduates and retention. Since he assumed the presidency in July 2006, enrollment has grown by 25 percent to 42,513 students, the highest recorded enrollment in Kent State’s history. International student enrollment has more than tripled, and each year the university has attracted a more highly qualified, diverse and geographically dispersed entering class.
  • With a focus on college completion, Kent State has made great strides and significant investments in student success and retention strategies. This spring, the university will confer 4,375 degrees, which is roughly a 13 percent increase from last year and freshman retention has risen to 75-78 percent in recent years.
  • The transformational “Foundations of Excellence: Building the Future” program was developed and launched, funding some $200 million in campus improvements addressing academic needs, accessibility, energy efficiency and deferred maintenance. Among these will be new or improved facilities for the Sciences; Architecture and Environmental Design; Art; Applied Engineering, Sustainability and Technology; and Undergraduate Studies.
  • Key academic objectives have been realized including creation of a College of Public Health, acquisition of a College of Podiatric Medicine, continued integration of the regional campus system, expansion of online programs and courses, and growth in international enrollments and partnerships.
  • Kent State’s Centennial Campaign raised a record-breaking $265 million, surpassing its $250 million goal. University and foundation leadership together are building the pipeline to cultivate the next generation of donors and ever-higher levels of attainment, which are essential to the university’s future.
  • The university began a multi-year diversity initiative creating a new division and cabinet-level officer, the vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion; implementing a diversity scorecard; and launching a strategic diversity plan with a focus on inclusive excellence.
  • With 42,000 students coming to campus every year with expectations of technology that are rivaled in few business to consumer organizations, under Lefton’s leadership Kent State delivered technology-driven solutions that meet the campus community’s demands for support of a wide inventory of digital tools including smart phones, tablets, laptops and gaming devices. Additionally, the university empowered faculty and staff with IT tools to meet the pressures of a 24/7 environment created by the Internet.
  • Lefton commissioned the university’s first independent study that quantified Kent State’s annual economic impact to the state of Ohio as $1.9 billion. He also invested in branding initiatives that raised the global visibility of the university contributing to its recognition twice as a “Top University in the World” from the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings.
  • During Lefton’s tenure, The Chronicle of Higher Education selected Kent State twice as one of the “Great Colleges to Work For.” Additionally, for three years in a row, the Employers Research Council ranked Kent State one of the 99 great workplaces for top talent in Northeast Ohio.
  • The face of the Kent Campus has changed substantially during Lefton’s tenure. Risman Plaza and many campus academic buildings have seen renovation; campus landscaping, signage and many new student-focused facilities have been developed, including the new Student Green, new student study lounges, and a math emporium in the university’s library.
  • Significant progress has been made in revitalizing downtown Kent, creating Ohio’s rising college town and making Kent a great place to study, work, live and visit. With the tireless work of public and private partners, the $100 million Kent Gateway Project has become a reality, including the openings in June of the long-awaited hotel and conference center and esplanade extension.
  • Kent State celebrated its centennial in 2010 through yearlong observances, which included the 40th anniversary of the events of May 4, 1970, listing of the site on the National Register of Historic Places, and the opening of a May 4 Visitors Center marking its place in American history.
  • Lefton has built a strong leadership team for Kent State, most recently appointing Todd Diacon, Ph.D., as senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. The board and the president have focused on leadership development and building bench strength as a strategic goal, as talent in the form of faculty and staff is key to achieving desired high-impact results in education, research and service.
  • Kent State Athletics has achieved unprecedented success academically and competitively; among key highlights of his tenure are the Golden Flashes’ 2012 appearance in the College World Series; consistent national rankings and conference championships in sports as wide ranging as golf, wrestling, gymnastics, track and field; six 20-win seasons in men’s basketball; and football’s historic run in 2012-13, including the first bowl appearance in 40 years.



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