The Times West Virginian

Opinion

March 5, 2014

Gee makes major impact and earns another term as WVU president

Let’s imagine that a graduate from West Virginia University in the early 1980s, when E. Gordon Gee was president, came back to get an extra degree now and couldn’t believe that E. Gordon Gee is “still” the president of WVU.

That scenario probably won’t happen, but it could. Gee is back where many believe he belongs, and the entire university community seems to be delighted that he is.

It was 33 years ago that Gee was named as president of West Virginia University and he stayed on until 1985 when he left to take a similar position at the University of Colorado.

So when Gee was named interim president of WVU late last year following the resignation of Jim Clemens, the school’s board of governors felt they couldn’t have found a better man as the interim leader.

But Gee may have been placing some ideas in the minds of board of governors leaders when he announced he didn’t wish to be called “interim” president but wanted to be addressed as  “president” while he was serving in that role. At this point, most everyone still considered him to be at WVU on an interim basis and any such leader wouldn’t be considered for the full-time job.

But last Friday, the search committee held at emergency meeting and recommended that the board rescind the November motion disqualifying Gee from permanent appointment. Instead, the committee advised the board instead to take all necessary steps to retain Gee. Chairman James W. Dailey II said it was based in large part on the impact he has already had on the university.

That’s a very positive way of saying that Gee possesses all the qualities being sought in a university president. It certainly wouldn’t have seemed right if the new president that the search committee might have found was lacking in certain qualities owned by Gee, who has those unique skills to impress faculty, students and administration alike, as well as the public, while operating a major university.

“Gordon Gee is absolutely, hands-down the very best person to be at the helm of West Virginia University at this important time and place in our history,” Dailey said Friday. “I know we recruited him to serve until a permanent leader was in place and said the interim president would not be a candidate for the permanent presidency, but the search committee and the board had a change of heart.

“It is clear Gordon Gee has not been a placeholder president by any means; he has been an extraordinary high-energy leader who is getting things done, moving us forward and clearly has the support of our board, senior university leaders, faculty and staff, students, elected officials, higher education peers and opinion leaders. Countless people have urged us from Day One to keep him.”

As others have said, there is no denying he has managed — with help from social media — to cast himself as a not-so-ordinary campus CEO, and in doing so enhanced his homecoming to the place where he got his first presidency at age 36.

In the years since that first presidency and move to Colorado, E. Gordon Gee has served as president of Ohio State, chancellor at Vanderbilt, president at Brown University and the head man at Ohio State for a second time. He still holds several positions at Ohio State on a volunteer basis, and we feel certain any problems about that will be ironed out quickly.

Everyone is aware that Gee has put his foot in his mouth on various embarrassing subjects

“I have regrets when I have said things that I shouldn't have said, but I have no regrets about having a sense of humor and having a thick skin and enjoying life,” Gee said. We feel certain Gee has received ample warnings about these off-the-cuff statements.

Welcome back now to the official “new” president of West Virginia University. We feel sure the unnamed graduate from the early 1980s would welcome him back as well.

 

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