A contact recently asked what Steven Leath is up to lately. Longtime Bleeding Heartland readers will recall this site’s extensive coverage of the scandal regarding the Iowa State University president’s misuse of state-owned aircraft. Leath resigned as ISU president in March 2017 to accept a position as president of Auburn University in Alabama. However, that university’s trustees agreed in June 2019 to pay Leath $4.5 million to walk away from the job two years into a five-year contract. He is due to collect the last of three $1.5 million payments this July.
While Leath was still at Auburn, President Donald Trump appointed him to the National Science Board, a body that advises Congress and the presidential administration on matters related to science or engineering. His term will expire in May 2024. Leath walked then-candidate Trump across the field before the Iowa/Iowa State football game in September 2015, a controversial act he said was not meant as an endorsement. He has long been friendly with Donald Trump, Jr., with whom he sat during the Iowa State men’s basketball “Sweet Sixteen” game in Madison Square Garden in March 2014.
The younger Trump and Leath share an interest in hunting, which is the focus of the former university president’s newest position. The Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports announced in October that Leath would serve as the organization’s executive director, beginning January 1, 2021. How much he will earn in that job is not clear; available tax returns indicate the nonprofit has been paying a firm owned by the council’s CEO between $186,139 and $193,584 annually for “general management services.”
In late 2017, Leath sold the Hardin County land he had purchased the previous year, with the help of a company run by then Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter. He still has at least one formal connection to Iowa, though, as an advisory council member for the World Food Prize Foundation in Des Moines.