Kent State Board of Trustees Welcomes Class of 2026, Approves Pizzuti Park Naming
The Kent State University Board of Trustees welcomed the Class of 2026 at the Board’s regular quarterly meeting held Wednesday, Sept. 21, at the Kent State University Airport in Stow, Ohio.
Kent State’s freshman class began classes on the Kent Campus nearly 7% larger than the previous year with 4,251 students – the eighth largest incoming class in the university’s 112-year history. These newest Golden Flashes arrive as high achievers, boasting an outstanding GPA of 3.5.
Diacon has made supporting first-generation and underrepresented students a priority. One in three (34%) of the freshman class is a first-generation student, and nearly one in five (a record 19%) is underrepresented, which includes African American, Hispanic, Native American and multiracial students.
One in seven of the Class of 2026 is a member of the largest incoming group of new students to ever be accepted into Kent State’s Honors College. Kent State’s first-year class also includes 93 international students on the Kent Campus, more than double the previous year. These students are part of a 19% increase in the total number of international students now calling the Kent Campus home; this includes nearly 1,000 graduate students, a stunning 43% increase from the previous year.
Enrollment for the fall semester is 33,209 for Kent State’s eight-campus system and 25,077 for the Kent Campus alone. Altogether, the university’s current enrollment boasts students from all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and nearly 100 countries.
Board Approves Naming of Pizzuti Park, Hears Other Naming Actions
In recognition of Ronald A. Pizzuti’s dedicated service and giving in support of Kent State, the Board approved naming the land at the northwest end of the Lester A. Lefton Esplanade, at the border of the Kent Campus and downtown Kent, as Pizzuti Park. Pizzuti is a native of Kent, Ohio, who received his Bachelor of Business Administration in marketing in 1962 from Kent State. He built a national reputation in commercial real estate development, marketing and management, founding The Pizzuti Companies in Columbus in 1976.
Through his volunteer service, giving and leadership, Pizzuti has made a substantial positive impact upon his alma mater and his hometown. He was a member of the Kent State University Foundation Board of Directors, serving as chair of the university’s Centennial Campaign that ended in 2012 after raising $265 million. He also served as a member of the Kent State Board of Trustees from 1987 to 1998, holding multiple leadership roles, including Board chair, and earning the recognition of Trustee Emeritus upon his retirement from the Board. In 1992, he established an endowed scholarship that has provided much-needed support to generations of Kent State students. Through this naming action, Kent State recognizes the generosity and leadership of Pizzuti in providing gifts and volunteer support totaling more than $2.3 million to benefit the university community.
The Board also heard two naming actions that have been approved by the university president, who has the Board’s delegated authority to approve philanthropic naming opportunities with a total value or cost under $100,000. The first of these two named spaces is the Gary M. Gale Office that will be provided to the chair of the Department of Marketing and Entrepreneurship in Crawford Hall, the future home of the Ambassador Crawford College of Business and Entrepreneurship. The Gary M. Gale Office is named in recognition of a $55,000 commitment from Gary Gale, a 1967 Kent State graduate, to support the construction of Crawford Hall.
The second named space approved by the president is the E. Timothy Moore Student Multicultural Center, named in recognition of a $50,000 gift from D’Andra Mull, Ph.D., a 2002 Kent State graduate. The naming of the E. Timothy Moore Student Multicultural Center in the Kent Student Center honors the memory and legacy of E. Timothy Moore, a three-time Kent State alumnus who served as associate professor of Pan-African Studies and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. During his time at Kent State, Moore served as president and minister of art for Black United Students. Moore was recognized for his commitment to diversity within the university community, and this naming action connects his legacy to the heart of Kent State’s efforts to foster belonging and cultural affirmation among all its students.
Board Approves University Faculty Separation Plan
Projected to result in significant cost savings overall, the Board authorized the president to proceed with the implementation of a voluntary university faculty separation plan for full-time faculty (tenured/tenure-track, non-tenure track and unclassified staff with faculty rank) who have 15 years or more of service to Kent State or are eligible to retire (full or partial benefit) from the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) of Ohio or with equivalent eligibility under Alternative Retirement Plan (ARP), as of June 30, 2023.
The plan will give eligible faculty the option of taking advantage of a separation package while providing the university with greater flexibility to respond to current budgetary priorities and to continue forward in implementing strategic initiatives. The plan will make monthly payments to faculty members who qualify and elect the plan over a five-year period if the faculty member is eligible and chooses to separate from service no later than July 1, 2023. A portion of the cost savings will support hiring of tenure-track research-active faculty and enhance student success and support services.
Board Praises President Diacon in Annual Review
Board members commended Kent State President Todd Diacon for his outstanding, steady leadership. This is Diacon’s third review as university president. He began serving as Kent State’s 13th president on July 1, 2019.
In reviewing Diacon’s 2021-2022 goals and accomplishments, the Board recognized Kent State’s impressive progress in student access and completion, academic and research programs, regional impact, stewardship of organizational resources and protecting the campus community’s health, safety and well-being.
The Board has determined that Diacon has earned the full amount of the annual performance incentive in his employment agreement effective April 29, 2019, and that his employment shall continue as previously authorized by the Board with a 3% increase in base salary for the 2022-2023 year.
Among other Board actions:
- The Board confirmed the conferral of a total of 5,715 degrees for spring 2022 on those Kent State students who have been officially recorded by the University Registrar as having completed the requirements of their respective programs of study during the period of Dec. 18, 2021, to May 15, 2022.
- The Board endorsed the university report that evaluates all courses and programs Kent State offers based on enrollment and duplication of its courses and programs with those of other state institutions of higher education within a geographic region. The findings of this review will be submitted to the chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education by the required deadline of Oct. 14, 2022.
- The Board approved a resolution regarding campus free speech that affirmed that the principles of campus free speech enumerated in Ohio Revised Code Section 3345.0215 (1) through (9) are the public policy of the state of Ohio; recognized the university’s existing complaint processes previously reviewed or approved by the Board; required that the university’s policies and complaint resolution processes be reviewed and amended as appropriate to ensure conformity with the proposed Ohio Campus Free Speech Standards recently promulgated by the chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education; and directed that this issue be placed under the Board’s Dec. 7, 2022, agenda for further consideration and action as necessary to ensure Kent State’s continued compliance with state law and furtherance of Ohio public policy.
- The Board approved the revisions of the Code of Regulations of the Kent State Foot and Ankle Clinic, an Ohio nonprofit corporation that serves to carry on research and educational activities related to practicing podiatric medicine, render care in the field of podiatry, and operate and maintain clinics to satisfy the needs of the community for comprehensive podiatric medicine services. The revisions will add a new section – Article IV. Board of Directors, Section 6. Emeritus Status – to recognize Kent State Foot and Ankle Clinic board members who have completed outstanding, loyal and faithful service.
- The Board approved 2.0% adjustment to the pay structure for unrepresented classified civil service staff, unclassified administration and professional exempt staff and unclassified nonexempt staff not represented in a bargaining unit for Fiscal Year 2023. The pay structures associated with the compensation plans are reviewed and amended periodically to reflect changes in economic and market conditions. The structure adjustments are effective with the pay period that includes Oct. 1, 2022.
- The Board approved the vendor selection for vision insurance services. Kent State provides vision insurance for its employees and eligible dependents on a self-funded basis, with estimated total claims of $559,000 annually. The university will enter into a contract with EyeMed Vision Care LLC for the provision of medical benefit administrative services one year at the estimated cost of $29,802 plus a university option to renew up to four additional one-year periods at $29,802 each year.
- The Board approved amending to the Crawford Hall project budget from $74.0 million to $83.5 million, with the $9.5 million budget increase funded by $5 million from funds set aside for future debt service, $4 million from the Terrace Drive realignment project and $500,000 from University Culinary Services renewal and replacement funds to support food service features in the new building. The Board approved the original project budget at its October 2021 meeting, however, due to unprecedented instabilities in the construction market and building commodities that have resulted in historic inflation cost from raw material price increases, supply chain issues and labor shortages, the project budget has been increased to keep the project on track and on time for a fall 2024 opening.
- The Board approved the amended Front Campus chilled water plant and loop project to serve the new Crawford Hall along with nine existing buildings, providing energy, operating and capital cost savings. The entire scope proposed during project inception in 2021 has increased to $9.0 million compared to the original project budget of $7.5 million. The project will be funded by $7.5 million in state of Ohio capital appropriations from House Bill 687 and $1.5 million in local funding for facilities. The new chiller plant will be operational in 2024.
- The Board approved the renovation of the second floor of Beall Hall to provide additional studio and program space for the College of Architecture and Environmental Design. The project estimate of $7.8 million will be funded by state of Ohio capital appropriations from House Bill 687. The project is anticipated to be completed prior to the start of the 2024 Fall Semester.
- The Board approved the deferred maintenance improvements at Cunningham Hall to provide a research facility that can support modern research practices and meet all the requirements for ongoing accreditation. The project budget of $3,675,000 will be funded by $3,325,000 in state of Ohio capital appropriations from House Bill 687 and $350,000 in local funding for facilities. The design phase of the project will begin immediately with work occurring during the summer 2023 construction season.
- The Board approved the Fine Arts Building roof replacement and Library ceiling replacement at Kent State University at Stark. The roof of the Fine Arts Building is more than 28 years old and is no longer repairable, and the third and final phase of the Library ceiling replacement will complete the sprinkler and life safety improvements and install new energy-efficient lighting. The total project cost is $2.3 million. The university has budgeted $1.8 million in state of Ohio capital allocations from House Bill 687 and $500,000 in local funds for facilities to address this project. The design phase will begin immediately with work occurring during the summer 2023 construction season.
- The Board approved Kent Campus improvements to meet current standards under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The university will address campus accessibility needs across the campus in academic areas that will not be targeted for major improvements during the next five years. The university will use $1 million in state of Ohio capital allocations from House Bill 687 to support this initiative. Construction will begin in May 2023 and is anticipated to be complete prior to the start of the 2023 Fall Semester.
- The Board approved information technology network access enhancements in academic buildings. The project will focus on updating the various components of the network and security infrastructure, enhancing wireless access in academic spaces and enhancing cybersecurity. A total of $3,588,475 has been budgeted for this project, funded by the university’s state of Ohio capital allocations from House Bill 687.
- The Board approved the athletic track replacement for the Kent State Field House. The track surface is past its expected life span and in need of replacement. The project budget of $2.5 million will be funded through an internal lease to be paid by the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics from its annual operating budget over the next eight fiscal years.
- The Board approved the sale of 0.3 acres of property at 401 College Street in East Liverpool, Ohio, for $40,000, an amount equal to the most recent appraised value of the building and land. The property consists of four city lots, three of which consist of surface parking. The fourth lot has a two-story building of 5,220 square feet. Kent State has determined that the property is surplus to its current needs and there is no future use for the property.
- The Board passed a resolution of appreciation to Johnathan Holifield. Due to an out-of-state relocation and in accordance with Ohio law, Holifield resigned his position as trustee of Kent State, effective Sept. 14, 2022. The Board expressed its appreciation to Holifield for his passionate stewardship and wished him well in his future pursuits.
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