Leath formally installed as university’s 19th president with theme of “Inspire. Innovate. Transform.”

Published: April 02, 2018
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Auburn University President Steven Leath articulated an ambitious vision for the university during his formal installation as the school's 19th president in a Thursday ceremony with the theme, "Inspire. Innovate. Transform."

"He is a visionary who is not content with the status quo," said Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, president of the Auburn Board of Trustees. Ivey, together with Michael DeMaioribus, president pro tempore, installed Leath and presented him with the Auburn presidential medallion in front of 1,200 guests on the Auburn Arena floor. Harold Martin Sr., chancellor of North Carolina A&T State University, introduced Leath via video.

"Dr. Leath will honor our past and embrace what it means to be an Auburn man or woman while transforming our beloved university into an institution that will be as strong in our next 162 years as it was in the first 162 years," Ivey continued.

Leath, who began serving as president in July 2017, spoke of Auburn's foremost responsibilities as a land-grant university, which, he said, are to educate and prepare students for life; drive the development of scholarship and research that creates and advances knowledge; and have meaningful engagement and outreach.

"When it comes to fulfilling our role and responsibilities as a public land-grant university, the state of

Auburn is strong, but 'strong' isn't enough to take Auburn to the next level," Leath said. "As formidable as our research and scholarship have been, and as strong as our engagement and outreach efforts, we can do even better. We can do more. We will do more."

Leath followed by announcing plans to hire 500 tenure-track faculty by 2022 targeting a broad range of research and scholarly disciplines. "This transformational hiring plan will facilitate scholarship growth, improve faculty/student ratios and enhance our partnership capabilities. It's a bold commitment, but it is achievable," he said.

Two key initiatives have been enacted already by Leath. The Presidential Awards for Interdisciplinary Research, or PAIR, will provide $5 million in the next three years to support Auburn researchers, while a new Presidential Graduate Research Fellowship program will support research and innovation by doctoral students.

Daniel Svyantek, chair of the University Senate and professor of psychology in the College of Liberal Arts, said, "Dr. Leath's vision of excellence encompasses all of the critical elements of a successful land-grant university. Teaching, research and outreach are all supported, and [they] support economic development, increasing educational access and advancing social changes that are critical in the 21st century."

Beau Byrd, president of the Auburn Alumni Association, said, "As president of Auburn University, you will have many pillars of support from our more than 225,000 alumni around the world. You are building the future of Auburn University on a solid foundation we call the Auburn Family. Dr. Leath, this family stands with you as you bring your vision of leadership to this university."

Jacqueline Keck, outgoing SGA president, spoke of Leath's commitment to each student.

"His focus on inclusion and diversity ensures that this growth effects all Auburn students, not just a few, Keck said. "He is committed to ensuring that all students enrolled in this university are afforded the same exceptional Auburn experience. Dr. Leath knows we are stronger when each and every voice around the table is heard."

The day prior to the installation, the university held student-focused festivities on the Student Center Campus Green, featuring performances by student organizations, the pep band, cheerleaders and Aubie. Hundreds of students participated in games, enjoyed free food and picked up commemorative T-shirts while mingling with President Leath.

"It is a time for us as a student body to change and grow, to foster better relationships with each other, and believe in a stronger university," Jennifer Eaton, president of the Black Student Union, said after the student event. "With Dr. Leath charging not only the student body to see his vision, but the Auburn Family as a whole, I am honestly excited to see where Auburn is heading!"

Dane Block, SGA president, commented, "Dr. Leath will transform our university through innovation in ways that add value to the student experience and create new opportunities for engagement. I am especially excited for Auburn and its students during this time…You hear it a lot, but it is indeed, a great time to be an Auburn Tiger."

More coverage of the installation—including Leath's remarks and a video of the ceremony—is available at www.auburn.edu/auburninspires.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 29,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.