Kent State University President Lester Lefton has sold his home in the River Bend neighborhood near Kent's northern border, but will continue living there thanks to a lease signed between KSU and the new owner.
KSU spokeswoman Emily Vincent said the university's Board of Trustees will consider a resolution making the house the school's official president's residence in May. She said KSU is one of the few Ohio universities without an official residence for the school's president.
Lefton has lived in the house at 1501 Elizabeth Court, located off River Bend Boulevard, since shortly after he became president at KSU in 2006. According to Portage County property records, he and his wife, Linda Lefton, finished paying off the $450,000 mortgage on the property in December 2011. They sold it to Shaker Heights attorney Edward Cochran late last month.
Under his contract with KSU, Lefton receives a $50,000 annual housing allowance for mortgage or rent payments. He receives an additional $15,000 for utility payments and maintenance work.
The university entered into a lease with Cochran Monday, which will allow Lefton to continue living in the house after the sale. Lefton will not continue to receive a housing allowance.
KSU officials did not release the terms of the lease Monday, but Cochran said it was a 20-year lease with an annual payment of $56,000.
KSU has not had an official president's residence since 1988. University presidents lived in Curtiss House, located on East Main Street on the front campus, from the 1940s until 1988, when President Michael Schwartz moved to an off-campus site. Curtiss House now houses the Williamson Alumni Center.
Cochran said he was looking for potential real estate investments when a real estate agent brought the Elizabeth Court home to his attention. He said he became interested in purchasing the home when he learned the university would agree to lease it from a new owner.
"It's an investment," he said. "Is it a great investment? Not particularly. But it's not bad."
Cochran said he has never met Lefton and has not had any connection with the university since taking post-secondary classes at KSU in the 1960s. He said his only other real estate investment in Portage County is about 30 acres of undeveloped land off of Chillicothe Road in Aurora.
KSU released a statement on the lease Monday that read:
"Lefton continues to receive the full backing of the board for his leadership and vision with Kent State, and the agreement has no impact on Lefton's current or future employment with the university. He remains under contract as president until June 2014, and at any time before then, he and the Board of Trustees can agree to extend his contract."
KSU's Board of Trustees will consider the resolution to name the Elizabeth Court house the official president's residence at its May 14 meeting.
Jane Timken, chair of the KSU Board of Trustees, released a statement Monday referencing the importance of having an official residence for the school's president.
"The board has wanted to secure an official presidential home for some time as it allows Kent State the stature it deserves as a major university worthy of top leadership," Timken. "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."
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