Steven Leath elected as next Iowa State President

ISU president-elect Steven Leath speaks to the crowd in the Memorial Union Campanile Room on Tuesday, Sept. 27, after the announcement. Leath will take office Feb. 1, 2012. 

Daily Staff

(Updated  4:57 p.m. Sept. 3)

“I am truly honored to be elected as the president of Iowa State University.” Leath said in his acceptance speech. “I am honored and excited that Jan and I will be joining the Iowa State family.”

The transition will be enacted soon, and Leath will be in place by Feb. 1, 2012. 

“What we looked for was for a vision for the entire state of Iowa and how Iowa State University fits,”  from that perspective, said Regents president, Craig Lang. “Dr. Leath answered the questions in a way that the Iowa Board of regents was happy with.”

(Updated 4:50 p.m. Sept. 3)

Jared Knight, Vice President of GSB was feeling “Just excitement” after hearing the announcement, and is looking forward to working with the president and having been a part of the selection process.

“It’s not a process a lot of students get to experience,” said Vice President of GSB, Jared Knight. “I don’t envy the regents for having to make that decision.”


Steven Leath has been selected by a unanimous vote as the new president for Iowa State University.

Leath is currently the vice president of research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and will take over as president on Feb. 1, 2012. His paid salary will be $440,000. This is a slight decrease from President Gregory Geoffroy’s current salary of $440,248.

“If I come here, I’m going to spend a lot of time inside making this land-grant greater than it already is because it’s a great university, and we’re going to make it greater … We need to ask ‘what’s the right thing to do for Iowa State, and what’s the right thing to do for the state of Iowa?'” Leath said at his open forum on Friday.

Leath said it is important to eliminate redundancies within the curriculum, help cooperate with sister universities and over all work to be more student centered.

He said schools are not being responsible in serving their students and constituents. Instead, he said universities need to do a better job of talking outside the university and working with parents, the community and government officials.

He said that universities need to be more responsive to what students need.

“When the students come to us and say we’re not nimble enough, we’re not forward thinking enough, or we’re not instituting the new degree programs they want to make an employable future, then we need to react.”

Leath wants to make sure that students are valued and that the necessary steps are taken in order to foster successful students.

“We as a society undervalue the actual college life experience and the growth a student has on campus. Whether it’s tolerance for LGBT issues or whether it’s student government where you’re trusted with responsibility you’ve never had before. I don’t want to see that go away.”

Despite his confident and forward-thinking goals, Leath is still willing to make tough decisions and deal with the budget crunch.

“In terms of making tough decisions, in some ways I’ve been schooled by the best,” he said. “Most of the tough decisions involved personnel or budget allocations, and because we’re in this world of limited resources, you can’t do all of the things you want to do and you can’t even fund all of the projects you want to fund. You have to make choices and you have to deliver that message.”

Overall, Leath wants to merchandise the university both in the United States and abroad to create a viable Iowa State brand and strengthen the sense of community.

“There has go to be a peer expectation and [students’] peers have to understand that this is what people do: they get into a public university, and they get a fantastic education at a bargain price.”

Leath said he believes in the future of the public university.

“I think land-grant universities need to be far more demanding,” he said. “We’re blessed with lots of smart, talented people, and we did whatever we wanted, and if society wanted it, they could come take it. I don’t think that’s going to work anymore. I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”

Leath has held several positions in the past, including working as an extension plant pathologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; a plant pathologist and research leader at North Carolina State University; acting national program leader for grain crops for the United States Department of Agriculture; and most recently the vice president of research and sponsored programs at the University of North Carolina.

According to a news release issued when Leath first took office at North Carolina in 2007, he was hired to help the university “advocate for increased levels of external support from federal, state and private sources and [worked] closely with … administrators to develop research and sponsored program activity.”

Before being named vice president, Leath worked as a professor and assistant director of the North Carolina Research Service and then was named interim associate dean and director of UNC’s college of agriculture and life sciences.

According to a release from the University of North Carolina, upon hiring Leath, then-President Erskine Bowles said, “Steve Leath is a proven researcher and administrator who brings a deep-seated understanding of the critical role of university research in improving North Carolina’s quality of life and competitive position in a knowledge-based global economy. Over the past two decades, he has earned the respect and trust of colleagues all across the state, and we are delighted that he has agreed to join our leadership team at General Administration.”

According to Leath’s curriculum vitae, he has helped UNC campuses increase their external funding and now the university attracts nearly $1.4 billion annually in competitive research grants and contracts above state support for salaries and infrastructure across many fields of research.

According to his curriculum vitae, Leath has authored nearly 100 scientific publications.

Leath also helped create the North Carolina Research Campus.