Installation of the Nineteenth President


XIX Installation of Steven Leath, the Nineteenth President.
Auburn University logo
Expansion to Grow Research Capacity, Increase Economic Development and Fuel Student Education Opportunities

Auburn University President Steven Leath today announced plans to hire 500 tenure-track faculty by 2022 targeting a broad range of research and scholarly disciplines at the leading land-grant university. Read the full news release.


Introduction section 2

Auburn will take student leadership to new heights

Employers consistently rank leadership among the top attributes they search for in new employees. At Auburn, we provide real-world learning laboratories where students can gain leadership principles in their communities, better preparing them to compete in the marketplace and make meaningful contributions.

Leadership skills provide our graduates with the tools to be successful in a modern economy. Our students graduate prepared for interviews, to work in team-based environments and to effectively manage their time and resources. Every student is different, so we provide multiple pathways of interest to cultivate these skills and transform our students into leaders.

Information about President Leath

Steven Leath became Auburn University's 19th president on June 19, 2017. Trained as a plant scientist, Dr. Leath served at three universities in teaching, research and economic development posts en route to his positions at Iowa State and Auburn.

Portrait photograph of Dr. Steven Leath

Steven Leath became Auburn University's 19th president on June 19, 2017.

Prior to arriving at Auburn, Dr. Leath served for more than five years as president of Iowa State University (ISU), one of the nation's top research institutions with an international reputation in science and technology. While he was president, Iowa State achieved its highest student graduation rate, lowered student debt, grew research expenditures, set fundraising records and secured the university's largest private gift for an academic facility. He also led efforts for the 200-acre expansion of ISU's research park, creating new jobs and attracting new companies, industry partnerships and government collaborations.

Trained as a plant scientist, Dr. Leath served at three universities in teaching, research and economic development posts en route to his positions at Iowa State and Auburn.

Dr. Leath was vice president for research and sponsored programs for the 16-campus University of North Carolina System. Under his leadership, external research grants and contracts steadily increased and technology transfer activities were streamlined to make the universities more attractive to private sector partners and more responsive to state needs. He also helped develop the North Carolina Research Campus, a private-public venture that fosters advancements in biotechnology, nutrition and health.

At North Carolina State University in Raleigh, Dr. Leath held several positions of increasing responsibility and prominence. Those positions include director of the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service (ARS), associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, professor, and research leader and plant pathologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's ARS.

Dr. Leath began his academic career at the University of Illinois, Urbana, as an extension plant pathologist. He has published numerous articles on plant disease resistance, plant breeding and related areas and has presented his scientific work throughout the U.S. and in numerous countries. He holds a B.S. in plant science from Pennsylvania State University, M.S. in plant science from the University of Delaware and Ph.D. in plant pathology from the University of Illinois.

Dr. Leath and his wife, Janet, have two sons, Eric and Scott, and two dogs.

Auburn will expand its role as a partnership university by advancing impactful and transformative research and scholarship

Advancing knowledge is the foundation of discovery and inspires student learning and transformative research. At Auburn, our tradition of innovation serves as a launchpad for entrepreneurs, industry leaders, government officials and others as we improve quality of life and strengthen economic opportunity.

Auburn values all forms of scholarly activity. Whether creative endeavors, such as artistic works and performances, academic publications or inventions, we promote scholarly activity because it prompts intellectual advancement and expands learning.

Auburn will expand its research and development programs to address some of society’s most challenging issues with an emphasis on advancing knowledge in health sciences, improved sustainable resources, advanced manufacturing and cyber security.

To achieve our goals, we will strengthen the culture for faculty to conduct multidisciplinary research. Auburn recently launched the Presidential Awards for Interdisciplinary Research, or PAIR, program to provide funds to support researchers in building competitive teams advancing major technology developments, scientific discoveries or scholarly advances with broad economic, health or societal impact. PAIR will transform our collaboration with leading businesses, industries and government agencies.

Growing research requires increasing and strengthening the quality of our graduate student population, specifically our Ph.D. and professional programs, to cultivate future scholars who will represent Auburn worldwide. We will implement new recruitment strategies targeting top graduate school candidates from across the nation and world.

An important part of that strategy is a new graduate fellowship program to support research and innovation by Auburn doctoral students. These 100 new Presidential Fellows together with PAIR represent a significant investment in the university’s strategic priorities to conduct and bring dynamic research to the national forefront.

Finally, we will elevate Auburn to the Carnegie research one classification, placing us among the nation’s elite. We’re well on our way there now.

Main video area

Auburn will elevate its active engagement with the State of Alabama

Auburn will continue delivering tangible value to the State of Alabama and its citizens through instruction and outreach and by taking a substantial leadership role in engineering, science, agriculture and quality of life. We will be recognized by the State as the first resource for providing innovative solutions to social, economic and environmental issues that allow Auburn to showcase the talents of our students and faculty.

Accomplishing this vision means increasing access to educational opportunities and lifelong learning across the State, especially in underserved communities. By expanding Auburn’s capacity to provide assistance to individuals and communities, we are encouraging innovation and creating new opportunities that elevate our university-community partnerships.

Auburn will strengthen our engagement with both the public and private sectors in the State to provide increased workforce development and economic growth. Working together, we will develop new technologies that create and retain jobs in the State.

Information about the installation ceremony

Join us as we celebrate the installation of Dr. Steven Leath as the nineteenth president of Auburn University at 10 a.m., Thursday, March 29, in the Auburn Arena. Be a part of Auburn history and witness Dr. Leath as he is conferred with the articles of office and shares an inspiring, innovative, and transformative vision for Auburn’s future.

Students will start the celebration early from 10 a.m. to 2p.m., Wednesday, March 28, on the Campus Green beside the Student Center. There will be student group performances, caricature artists, a photo booth, lawn games, music provided by WEGL, and free food. Students can also pick up a special t-shirt to wear to the installation ceremony on Thursday.

Auburn graduates will expand their distinguished reputation in the marketplace

Given the rapid pace of change in the workplace, the most successful graduates are those with the ability to continue learning and to harness the work ethic, responsibility, character and interpersonal skills necessary to work in diverse settings.

Auburn will provide students with increased opportunities to learn from people with a variety of backgrounds and talents. We will strengthen the investment in the values of the Auburn Creed in our students and provide them with new opportunities to test their skills in an educational environment so they are ready to perform upon graduation.

Our alumni are among the most visible and credible ambassadors on the Auburn experience. Auburn will grow in prestige and reputation through our alumni who inspire their professions, disciplines and communities. We endeavor to tell their stories.


Auburn will continue to broaden its commitment to diversity and inclusion

Research and personal experiences clearly demonstrate that diversity and inclusion are integral to creativity and productivity. Better decisions are made with diverse perspectives around the table.

Auburn will continue to foster diversity of thought, culture, interests, insights, knowledge and background. In doing so, we will inspire those around us, make better decisions, derive better outcomes and compete more effectively in the marketplace for students, faculty, staff and partners in business, industry and government.

Through outreach and engagement, we will increase our promotion of higher education access for diverse communities in the State of Alabama, particularly those in underserved regions.

Additional Videos

Auburn is on the move

Auburn will become a premier model of engagement and will be recognized as a leading provider of instruction, research and creative scholarship.

Auburn will earn a national reputation for our commitment to excellence, our students who engage, inspire and lead, our research that delivers real-world benefits and our community engagement that serves the social good.

Auburn will achieve Carnegie 1 research status, grow partnerships with business, industry and government, and rise in other meaningful metrics of university success.

Media Resources

Media Resources

The background behind installations

The installation of a new president at universities and colleges has been a tradition in our nation dating back to the 17th century. The ceremony is a formal occasion involving faculty and students, dignitaries, alumni and the public in a celebration and formal welcome of a new president and that president’s vision for the university, signaling the dawn of a new era.

Regalia, medallion, and academic mace

The presidential installation ceremony is one of cap and gown regalia, which has origins in academic dress dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries, when universities were first taking form. The ordinary dress of the scholar, whether student or teacher, was the dress of a cleric.

Chains of office and the president’s medallion are worn as part of the pomp and ceremony of the official public celebration. Along with the academic mace, the official chain of office is highly regarded as part of the enduring legacy and permanent symbology of the institution.

Our message to those considering Auburn

Auburn is more than a place to go to school, work or engage in research and scholarship. It is a spirit that’s not afraid. It is a place that inspires hard work, honesty, respect and mutual helpfulness.