Kent State is leasing the home of President Lester Lefton from a private buyer and might make it the official presidential residence.
The university announced Monday that Cleveland attorney Edward Cochran had purchased Lefton’s home, on Elizabeth Court in Kent, and trustees will consider making it the official home for KSU presidents at their next meeting, May 14.
The Portage County Auditor’s Office said the sale price was $700,000.
“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,” trustee chairwoman Jane Timken said in a prepared statement.
She could not be reached for further comment.
When asked whether KSU had considered an outright purchase rather than lease, university spokeswoman Emily Vincent said, “The board evaluated different options for establishing a presidential residence, and the board chose to lease the home.”
Most tax-supported universities or their foundations in Ohio provide homes for their presidents presuming that they must entertain dignitaries, faculty and other VIPs.
For example, University of Akron President Luis Proenza lives in a 15-room brick colonial on Burning Tree Drive in West Akron that UA bought for $850,000 in 1998.
Youngstown State just finished investing $4.5 million to turn a former on-campus inn and residence hall into the president’s home. President Cynthia Anderson chose not to move in because the house was finished just as she announced her retirement.
Former University of Cincinnati President Gregory Williams lived in a donated luxury high-rise; Ohio State President Gordon Gee, in a mansion with a pool, catering kitchen and tennis court.
The presidents of three other public universities purchased their own homes and receive a stipend for maintenance, taxes and other expenses.
Wright State President David Hopkins could have continued living in an on-campus home but last year chose to buy his own home.
Northeast Ohio Medical University President Jay Gershen bought a four-bedroom colonial in Hudson for $630,000.
When KSU’s Lefton became president in 2006, the university did not own a presidential residence, so he and his wife, Linda, built an 11-room home for $792,550.
Lefton’s contract required KSU to pay $50,000 toward his mortgage every year. In 2011, trustees added a $15,000 yearly payment for utilities and repairs. He also received a one-time payment of $25,000 in 2011 for “painting, cleaning of furniture or rugs and replacement of damaged furniture” due to university use.
While it was not immediately clear how much the university has paid Lefton for housing expenses over his presidency, it appears he will walk away from the sale of his home with hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit from the deal.
The new owner of the couple’s home, Cochran, said he routinely invests in housing.
He said a real estate agent brought him the prospect of purchasing the Lefton home and they worked out what he believes is a “good deal” for the university.
He said he hasn’t met Lefton, and in fact has no tie to the university other than taking a few courses while at Streetsboro High.
KSU has signed a 20-year lease at $56,000 a year, he said.
“It’s not a high return for me, but it’s a secure deal,” Cochran said.
Lefton will continue to live in the home, but no longer will receive the $65,000 housing allowance.
His contract runs through June 2014, and trustees appear to be looking to the future.
Their resolution indicates that the board “constantly monitors national trends to keep a close watch on market factors that might impact the university’s ability to attract and retain the best possible leaders.”
Carol Biliczky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3729.