West Virginia University’s Board of Governors voted unanimously Monday to hire E. Gordon Gee to lead the state’s flagship school again as its 24th president.
The board had named Gee, who was WVU’s president from 1981 to 1985, interim president last December after Jim Clements left for Clemson. Gee’s existing contract will remain in effect while the university develops a new two-year contract, WVU said in a news release announcing Gee’s appointment.
Gee’s hiring also must be approved by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.
“When I had the opportunity to return to West Virginia and this University earlier this year I did not hesitate. And, I have found it to be the same wonderful and welcoming place I remembered. And, with great joy, I also found that our University had grown, matured and was competing on the national academic stage with some of the very best land-grant research universities in the country. I am honored, energized and humbled to serve West Virginia University as the 24th president,” Gee said in the release.
Monday’s decision came during an emergency meeting. It was a reversal from the board’s position last November, when it stated that the interim president wouldn’t be in line to take over full time. The board approved a 20-member search committee’s recommendation to retain the 70-year-old Gee.
“Dr. Gee comes back to West Virginia University with an outstanding and singular background. The faculty and Faculty Senate are excited to partner with him as we move forward,” Lisa DiBartolomeo, faculty representative to the board, said in the release.
Gee also served two stints as president at Ohio State, where he stumbled through a series of verbal missteps for which he had to issue apologies. He retired from Ohio State in July 2013 after he criticized Roman Catholics, Notre Dame and former Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema, who now coaches Arkansas.
In those remarks, made in December 2012 to Ohio State’s Athletic Council, Gee said Notre Dame was never invited to join the Big Ten because the school’s religious leaders are not “good partners.”
A Mormon, Gee also jokingly referred to “those damn Catholics,” and lampooned the academic integrity of the University of Louisville and Southeastern Conference schools, singling out the University of Kentucky. He alleged that University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez considered Bielema a “thug.”
Gee also made mildly disparaging remarks about Alvarez and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany. And he laughingly suggested that someone would have to “shoot” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith before Smith would allow the University of Cincinnati to join the Big Ten.
About the time of his first WVU presidency, Gee ignored faculty warnings to dress the role and adopted what would become his signature style: pressed suits, suspenders, horn-rimmed glasses and bow ties, seemingly a new one every day.
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