Dr. Steven Leath

United States

Dr. Steven Leath was elected to the IFDC board of directors in 2012. He serves on the board’s Budget Committee.

Steven Leath is past president of two of the U.S.’s premier land-grant institutions, Iowa State University (ISU) and Auburn University. His extensive leadership experience significantly advanced the teaching, research and service missions, and economic development efforts of both institutions, most recently at Auburn.

While at Auburn, Leath strengthened the institution’s reputation as a partnership university and empowered students, faculty and entrepreneurs to develop transformative ideas and inventions that improve lives. Key initiatives he advanced at Auburn include a strategic effort to recruit 500 new research- and scholarship-focused faculty, the advancement of multidisciplinary research through a $5 million presidential award program and the creation of new fellowships to attract 100 top-tier PhD scholars. Under his leadership, Auburn achieved Carnegie R1 classification, placing the university among the country’s elite research institutions.

During Leath’s tenure as ISU president, the university 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 and its largest cash gift. He also led efforts for the 200-acre expansion of ISU’s research park, generating new jobs and attracting new companies, industry partnerships and government collaborations.

Prior to arriving at ISU, Leath served as vice president for research and sponsored programs for the University of North Carolina System, and he held several prominent positions at North Carolina State University and in the U. S. Department of Agriculture and has authored nearly 100 refereed journal articles as well as book chapters and other works. Leath holds a BS in plant science from Pennsylvania State University, an MS in plant science from the University of Delaware, and a PhD in plant pathology from the University of Illinois.

In 2018, Leath was appointed by U.S. President Donald Trump to serve a six-year term on the National Science Board.