Ag Sciences grad and university president is named an Alumni Fellow

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Iowa State University President Steven Leath, who graduated from the College of Agricultural Sciences, is among 21 Penn State alumni who were honored Oct. 8 for their outstanding professional accomplishments and given the lifelong title of Alumni Fellow, the highest award given by the Penn State Alumni Association.

Leath received a bachelor's degree in plant science from the college in 1979 before embarking on a highly successful career marked by stints at several land-grant research universities.

"There are few people as deserving of this recognition as Steven Leath," said Rick Roush, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. "He has had a remarkable career as a scholar and as a leader, and his success is a testament both to his vision and to the preparation that Penn State and our college offer to students in their formative years."

As president of Iowa State, Leath oversees an institution that educates more than 34,000 students every year, employs more than 6,300 faculty and staff, and is a member of the Association of American Universities. Since his appointment in 2012, he has launched an agenda aimed at raising the university's profile as one of the top land-grant institutions in the country.

During Leath's first three years, Iowa State has enrolled record numbers of students, dramatically increased full-time faculty hiring, surpassed its private fund-raising goals and maintained the lowest tuition and fees of its peer group of 11 universities.

After graduating from Penn State, Leath earned a master's degree in plant science from the University of Delaware and a doctorate in plant pathology from the University of Illinois. He began his career as an extension plant pathologist in Illinois, and then joined North Carolina State University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as a plant pathologist, focusing on disease control and genetics of disease-resistance crops.

Leath held several positions at North Carolina State, including associate dean and director of the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service. He then served as vice president for research for the University of North Carolina General Administration, where he administered $1.4 billion in grants and contracts.

He also oversaw the university's inter-institutional centers and held lead roles in the North Carolina State University Centennial Campus, the North Carolina Research Campus, Research Triangle Park and the David H. Murdock Research Institute.

Leath, a member of the Council of Presidents of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, serves on the board of directors of the International Fertilizer Development Center, an international soil fertility and agricultural development center; the Big 12 Conference; and Bankers Trust.

He also is a board member of the Public Flagship Network, composed of public university leaders who are addressing the future of public higher education, and the University Innovation Alliance, a group of 11 public research universities focused on making college degrees more attainable for students with financial needs. He co-chairs the Cultivation Corridor initiative, which aims to make Central Iowa the nation’s premier agbioscience region.

Since the award was established in 1973, more than 700 alumni have been honored by Penn State with the title of Alumni Fellow -- a permanent and lifelong designation -- out of more than 631,000 living alumni.

The Alumni Fellow program showcases the significant contributions Penn Staters make to the nation and the world every day, according to Roger L. Williams, executive director of the Penn State Alumni Association.

"Even more important, it provides our fellows the opportunity to share their experience and wisdom with students, faculty and staff, thus adding an extra dimension to Penn State's academic programs," he said.

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Last Updated January 09, 2015