Dr. Steven Leath

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.

Leath has served as  president of Iowa State University (ISU) since 2012. In July 2017, he will move to a new position as president of Auburn University.

Trained as a plant scientist, Leath served at three universities in teaching, research and economic development posts en route to the ISU presidency. Leath came to Iowa State from North Carolina where he was a faculty member, research program leader and high-level administrator with the University of North Carolina (UNC) system and North Carolina State University (NCSU).

From 2007 to 2012, Leath was vice president for research for the UNC General Administration. He increased levels of external support from federal, state and private sources and worked closely with campus research administrators to develop research and sponsored program activity to support the mission of each of UNC’s 16 university campuses. Leath also oversaw UNC’s interinstitutional centers and the North Carolina Arboretum and was one of the leaders in such highly successful public-private partnerships as the North Carolina Centennial Campus, North Carolina Research Campus, Research Triangle Park and the David H. Murdock Research Institute, which he helped to establish and led as chief executive officer until joining Iowa State.

Leath joined the faculty of NCSU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 1985 as a plant pathologist with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) unit based on the NCSU campus. He was named professor and research leader of the unit in 1998, then spent time as acting national grain crops program leader for USDA/ARS in Washington, D.C. He returned to NCSU in 2001 as a professor and assistant director of the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service (NCARS), was promoted to associate director in 2003 and was named NCARS director and associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 2005.

Leath earned a bachelor’s degree in plant science from Pennsylvania State University, a master’s degree in plant science from the University of Delaware and a doctorate in plant pathology from the University of Illinois. After receiving his doctorate, he spent one year as an extension plant pathologist in Illinois. During his research career, Leath published nearly 100 scientific articles on plant disease resistance, plant pathology, plant breeding and related fields.