The Center was originally established in 1979 to provide an institutional setting for the academic examination of the historical, political, economic, and military experiences of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In April 1982 the Center was formally named after a distinguished participant in the affairs of the Atlantic Alliance, General Lyman L. Lemnitzer, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, 1963-69. A decision was made in 1991 to expand the mission of the Center to include an emphasis on the European Community.
Among its activities, the Center sponsors public lectures and conferences that are open to the University community and the general public. Scholarly meetings sponsored or cosponsored by the Lemnitzer Center have resulted in fifteen books. The Lemnitzer Center also launched an occasional papers series in 1992 and a conference papers series in 1999. The Center has research associates from Kent and other universities who participate regularly in its scholarly activities and contribute to its publications. Additionally, the Center maintains a corresponding associates category that includes scholars from U.S. and European universities who participate less frequently in its functions.
Within the University the Center encourages and oversees the introduction of related undergraduate and graduate courses to supplement already established offerings. It is the academic home for and provides advising to the minor/certificate in North Atlantic Security Studies. This is a twenty-four hour interdisciplinary minor with courses in economics, geography, history and political science. The Center also houses a small library of specialized holdings on NATO and the European Union.