(Kent State University) The Kent State University Board of Trustees has appointed Todd Diacon, Ph.D., Kent State’s executive vice president and provost, as its next university president at a special Board meeting held Monday, April 29. President-elect Diacon will begin his term as Kent State’s 13th president on July 1. He succeeds President Beverly J. Warren, who is stepping down as president after five years of exemplary service to the university.
The Kent State Board of Trustees appointed a 16-member search committee, chaired by Trustee Shawn Riley, and launched a national search for President Warren’s successor. To prepare for the search, the Board solicited input from virtually every constituency: faculty, staff, students, donors, alumni, elected officials, the Kent community and others. Input received from these groups indicated that Kent State needs a dynamic, experienced leader who could build on the institution’s vision and strategic direction, enhance academic excellence and research, strengthen organizational capacity and sustainability, and raise Kent State’s profile and prominence.
“After a rigorous national search, we have found that leader,” said Ralph Della Ratta, chair of the Kent State Board of Trustees. “Today, in a unanimous vote, the Kent State Board of Trustees has elected Todd Diacon, Ph.D., as Kent State’s 13th president.
“The Board is confident that Dr. Diacon’s substantial contributions to Kent State’s advancement over the past seven years demonstrate that he is the right person at the right time to continue our remarkable momentum and progress,” Chair Della Ratta continued.
President-elect Diacon has 30 years of higher education leadership experience. In his current position as executive vice president and provost of Kent State, he is the second highest-ranking position behind the president. He joined Kent State in April 2012 and is responsible for all academic functions of the university, leading the administration, faculty, and staff within more than 20 academic units, including colleges, schools, departments, and regional campuses of an eight-campus system that enrolls more than 38,000 students.
“Dr. Diacon knows Kent State well and has a deep understanding of the university’s strengths and potential,” Chair Della Ratta said. “We all agree that he has the leadership ability to accelerate our momentum in reaching our highest aspirations. Dr. Diacon is committed to advancing Kent State’s position as a top-tier public research university and our intense focus on strengthening student success, research and academic excellence.”
President-elect Diacon’s contributions and deep experience in these priorities have been evident during his time as Kent State’s provost. He has been instrumental in developing creative ways to boost the university’s international reach and reputation, including establishing our American Academy at the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná (PUCPR), a major university in Brazil.
He has helped the university attract world-class, talented deans, faculty and academic leaders, including most recently Christina Bloebaum, Ph.D., dean of the College of Aeronautics and Engineering; Michael Lehman, Ph.D., inaugural director of the Brain Health Research Institute; and Neil Cooper, Ph.D., inaugural director of the School of Peace and Conflict Studies. Dr. Diacon’s commitment to the recruitment of diverse faculty significantly increased the number of faculty hires from underrepresented groups, and contributed to Kent State earning the distinction as the No. 1 university nationwide in Forbes’ list of America’s Best Employers for Diversity 2019.
President-elect Diacon has contributed significantly to elevating Kent State’s academic excellence. During his time as provost, Kent State has enrolled five of its largest freshman classes, increased the number of undergraduate degrees awarded, raised the academic profile of the freshman class, improved graduation rates, and achieved record retention rates.
Before coming to Kent State, President-elect Diacon served as deputy chancellor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His duties included supervising the university’s strategic plan, leading special projects, co-directing university relations with state government, coordinating town-gown initiatives and directing the UMass Community College Connection to encourage community college students to enroll at UMass. In addition to his role of deputy chancellor at UMass, he was a professor of history.
Prior to UMass, President-elect Diacon worked at the University of Tennessee from 1989-2010, joining first as an assistant professor of history. During his career there, he held various positions, including director of the Latin American studies program, head of the history department, NCAA faculty athletics representative, professor of history with tenure, vice provost for academic operations and executive director for academic assessment and program support.
President-elect Diacon specializes in agrarian history and the history of central state power in Brazil. He has authored publications on student success and on the administration of higher education, and he has written several journal articles and two books. His book “Stringing Together a Nation” won the 2005 Warren Dean Prize for the most significant book on Brazilian history.
“The Board of Trustees would like to express our deep appreciation to the members of the Presidential Search Committee for their dedicated service,” Chair Della Ratta said. “The search process was very inclusive, and today we celebrate an outstanding outcome. We all owe a special debt of gratitude to Trustee Shawn Riley, who has given so generously of his time and counsel as chair of the Presidential Search Committee. We are especially grateful for his engagement with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and the Committee on Administrative Officers.”