May 9, 2006
Today my message to you is being sent with feelings of both pride and sadness as I announce that Lester Lefton, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, has been named the new president of Kent State University, effective this July. I am happy for Lester as he fulfills his career ambition to be a university president, yet I regret that the university will no longer have him as its chief academic officer.
Lester has spent five years at Tulane, during which time he has led the development of new programs such as TIDES and the freshman reading program. One of his major areas of focus has been the undergraduate experience for Tulane students, especially first-year students, and during his tenure student retention has increased.
Last fall, Lester had significant input into the Renewal Plan, especially the components dealing with the reorganization of the undergraduate colleges, the focus on community service and the capstone experience for graduating students. His hard work and knowledge of undergraduate education at Tulane contributed greatly to the plan.
Lester has also made important contributions in his work with the faculty. Prior to Katrina, he was a strong advocate to enhance faculty salaries and hire more full-time faculty, especially in the Arts and Sciences. During his tenure, Lester organized and successfully completed searches for four major appointments, including Dean Reed Kroloff of the School of Architecture, Dean Angelo Denisi of the A. B. Freeman School of Business, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Cynthia Cherrey and Associate Senior Vice President for Research Laura Levy as well as the reappointment of a number of other deans.
During the five years that Lester spent at Tulane, I have worked with him as he developed his administrative and leadership skills, knowing full well that as he did so, the time would come when another institution would recognize his talent and recruit him for their presidency. As president of Kent State, which is located just outside Cleveland in Kent, Ohio, Lester will preside over an eight-campus system with 33,000 students.
Lester will be leaving us as of July 1. Prior to his departure I will name an interim provost while simultaneously launching a national search for his successor.
I wish my colleague the best of luck and anticipate great success for him. I ask that you join me in those sentiments as we say goodbye to a valued colleague.
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