Iowa State President Steven Leath will be retiring his cardinal and gold for blue and orange after the Auburn University board of trustees unanimously approved Monday to name Leath their 19th president.
In an email to the Iowa State community, Leath announced his resignation as president of the Iowa State to "pursue an outstanding opportunity at Auburn University."
He said that when first approached about the offer he said he wasn't looking to leave but after deliberating the idea with his wife Janet it was an opportunity they could "not pass up."
He said that when arriving at Iowa State the plan was to retire here, but now "realize our destiny is in Alabama and leading one of the nation's great land-grant universities to even greater prominence."
The Opeilka-Auburn News reported Saturday that Leath was on the "short list" to fill the position, noting that he would be an admirable hire because of his land-grant experience.
Leath has served as Iowa State's president since 2012, and previously served as vice president for research at the University of North Carolina.
In the letter to the Iowa State community, Leath said he has been working closely with the Iowa Board of Regents to identify an interim president and to start a search for permanent president.
Charles McCrary Chairman pro tem said the official action of voting for Leath took place in the Student Center to "symbolize Leath's dedication to serving students," the Plainsman reported.
Leath said he was humbled and honored to be chosen for the position.
"The first thing I'd like to say is War Eagle," Leath said. "I'm going to enjoy getting to say that on a regular basis."
Leath said he is confident he can make Auburn a premiere land-grant university.
"Auburn is a very special place," Leath said. "I want to make it clear that the university is really about the people. Auburn has great students and highly dedicated staff. We're not going to do anything to diminish that. At the same time, we're going to push forward."
In June 2014 Leath received a $33,000 raise, bringing his annual salary to $500,000, alongside a five-year contract to serve as Iowa State's president.
According to an annual ranking released by the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2016, Leath earned an annual salary of $820,461 for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which was the result of a deferred compensation payout of $320,461.
In the summer 2015, Leath's base salary was increased by the Iowa Board of Regents from $500,000 to $525,000. A five-year deferred compensation plan was also approved, with an annual contribution of $125,000.
Auburn University's current president Jay Gouge during the 2011-12 fiscal year made $2.5 million – which at the time was the second highest salary for public college presidents in America.
The $2.5 million was made up of his based and deferred salary which is not paid annually but rather received only after serving the full term in his five-year contract.
His base salary at the time was $482,070.
Gouge announced his plans to retire earlier this year, asking Aurburn's board of trustees to begin a search.
The university then launched a 14-member committee headed by Birmingham businessman and Auburn trustee member Raymond Harbert, Opelika-Auburn News reported.
An Iowa State spokesperson said Saturday via email that he was aware of the report, but had no information regarding the Auburn presidency.
Leath's name carries some negative weight as he has come under fire recently regarding his use of mixed business and personal use of university-owned aircraft – in which he used the plane for medical appointments in Minnesota, flight lessons and trips to North Carolina.
Leath has reimbursed the university for the flights.
Auburn University currently serves more than 28,000 students, according to it's website, and the Montgomery campus serves about 5,000 students.
According to a press release on its website regarding the presidential search, "the University is seeking a visionary leader who has impeccable integrity, exemplary interpersonal and communication skills and a passion for educating students and preparing them for successful and productive lives."
The Opelika-Auburn News reported that Leath would be an attractive hire, with a former board of trustees member saying, “We’re a unique university, and he would need to know who we are. If he has land-grant experience, he will know who we are.”