ISU President Steven Leath reflects on first year in office, plans for future

ISU President Steven Leath talks with Shirley Knipfel, administrative specialist, and Tom Hill, vice president of student affairs, about his agenda for the day on Jan. 15 at the president’s office in Beardshear Hall. Iowa State’s 15th president, Steven Leath, officially has been president for the last four months but his work for the campus has gone on since Jan. 16, 2012.

Danielle Ferguson

President Steven Leath’s instillation as the 15th president of Iowa State took place Sept. 14, 2012; however, he worked for Iowa State far longer.

His first year of work at Iowa State began Jan. 16, 2012, and was one of many achievements and high objectives.

“I am really glad I’m here,” Leath proudly stated of his newfound home. “I enjoy the university and the community. It was an easy community to move to. People were very welcoming and helpful.”

Leath began with a bang, informing his audience that he had high hopes to bring the university from “already great” to “greater.” He expressed expectations and optimistic goals for the university in his instillation address, easily summarized in the “LEATH” acronym meaning “Land Grant, Excellence, Achievement, Trust and Honor.”

Delivering a top-notch education to those that desire it is a priority of Leath’s. He has helped do so by fighting for a freeze in mandatory fees for all students, as well as a freeze in resident tuition for the coming school year.

Another element of the LEATH Pledge deals with expanding diversity throughout campus and overall growth of Iowa State. Leath feels stressing the importance of diversity is critical at every level.

Many concerns arise as enrollment erupts at the university. Leath, however, is not interested in setting a cap any time soon.

“I think part of our mission, and President [Abraham] Lincoln’s vision [with land-grant universities], is that we would provide high quality education to those who want it,” Leath said. “We just have to make sure we can deal with the students in a quality way.”

In order to do this, Leath wishes to expand the faculty by 200 to keep the student-teacher ratio from “going wacko,” in his words. The 200 additional faculty will keep the mission of equal opportunity and diversity initiatives thriving.

The process of adding 700 more beds to Frederickson Court is underway, with 200 scheduled to be completed by fall 2013 to offset the flare-up of students, as well.

The 15th president’s first year contained the drive to raise a great amount of money for student support as well.

“We had a $100 million fundraising goal overall from July 2012 to July 2013. Our first 6 months were over $65 million, so we’re well ahead of schedule,” Leath said. “People have a great love and affection for the university. The student support goal of raising $150 million is being very well received. We’re pretty excited about it.”

Faculty Senate President Suzanne Hendrich feels that Leath will be a great leader for Iowa State.

“I was really impressed with his vision from his instillation address,” Hendrich said. “It seems to me that he is following through on what he intended to happen and that he is working well with the other administrators who are here. He’s shown a directness and honesty with sorting through things.”

As the president of a major university, Leath’s schedule is filled to the brim. He puts in early mornings and late nights, but still enjoys cheering on ISU athletics and other programs, such as agriculture, musical programs and many other events, whenever he and his wife, Janet, are able.

He also delights in an occasional coffee from the Union or some soup from the Hub when he is around campus.

As for the coming year, Leath is adamant on keeping student costs consistent.

“We really want to get in a situation between what we do in terms of management, and what we do with the legislature. Also, what we can do in management and keeping costs down and what our alumni and fans can do with support so we don’t have to raise tuition,” Leath said. “We’re really trying. That’ll be a big push this year so we won’t have to raise tuition for a little while; that would be really great.”

As Leath begins his second year with Iowa State, he looks forward to new challenges.

“I probably have not worked harder at any other job, but not enjoyed any job more, either.”