- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - Steven Leath hit the ground running during his first week as Auburn University’s president, meeting with students and staff and touring campus facilities.

Leath’s first meeting Monday morning was with student leaders who represented a variety of organizations, including student media, athletics, veterans’ affairs and the International Student Organization, among others.

“He started off by saying he’s there to listen,” Student Government Association President Jacqueline Keck said. “He wants to understand the culture here at Auburn, and he gave each of us the opportunity to talk about the organizations we’re involved in.”

After talking to student leaders, Leath met with members of the university senate, staff council, administrative and professional assembly and the American Association of University Professors, Brian Keeter, Auburn’s director of public affairs, said.

But the new president’s day on campus was cut short, as he had to fly to the nation’s capital for a conference at the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities on Monday afternoon.

“It’s the major higher education association of which Auburn is a member,” Keeter said. “The meetings just happened to fall as he is getting started here as president. It made for a very hectic first day.”

Keeter added that Leath, who came to Auburn from Iowa State University, intends to meet with all 59 academic departments on campus, as well as every county extension office in the state.

A plant pathologist and plant geneticist by trade, Leath visited with staff in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology. The new president spoke with staff about his accomplishments and toured their laboratories, Dr. Kira Bowen, professor of plant pathology, said.

“I’ve known him since 1983. We met in grad school at the University of Illinois,” Bowen said. “I’m tickled he’s here. I’ve respected him for a long time, and I’m truly pleased he’s here.

“I think my colleagues feel the same way,” she continued. “He won’t be coming into our labs and interfering with what we’re doing, but he understands what we’re doing. He understands our challenges.”

Leath has been gathering around the table with the Auburn family during his first week. One day, he had breakfast with students at the Wellness Kitchen, Keeter said. Bowen added he had lunch with plant pathology faculty.

“We also had pizza with him, which I think is kind of cool; just having a casual lunch with the president,” Bowen said.

Leath replaced Jay Gogue, who retired as president.

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Information from: Opelika-Auburn News, https://www.oanow.com/

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