It's official: E. Gordon Gee is leaving Ohio. Gee accepted an offer from West Virginia University yesterday to serve as its next permanent president. He had been interim chief at the university since early this year, only months after retiring from the top job at Ohio State University.
It’s official: E. Gordon Gee is leaving Ohio.
Gee accepted an offer from West Virginia University yesterday to serve as its next permanent president. He had been interim chief at the university since early this year, only months after retiring from the top job at Ohio State University.
Members of the governing board at West Virginia voted 16-0, with one member absent, to hire Gee, 70, as the next university president.
Gee was not at the meeting yesterday –– he was in Ohio to give a speech –– but said in a statement through West Virginia that he is “honored, energized and humbled to serve West Virginia University as the 24th president.”
Gee did not return phone calls yesterday. He leaves behind loose ends in Ohio, both at OSU and at a state-education initiative he is leading. Gee made plans to meet with Ohio State officials about that work, an OSU spokesman said.
West Virginia plans to offer Gee a two-year contract, the longest allowed under state law, but has yet to finalize details. For now, Gee will work under his current contract there, which pays $450,000 a year in base salary.
“It is clear Gordon Gee has not been a placeholder president by any means,” James W. Dailey II, chairman of the governing board for WVU, said in a statement. “He has been an extraordinary high-energy leader who is getting things done.”
Before hiring Gee for the temporary job, the university board had agreed that the interim president would not be considered for the full-time job. But on Friday, a search panel recommended Gee for the post. The board rescinded yesterday its earlier decision to block the interim chief from the top job.
Gee’s career in university leadership started at West Virginia when the school hired him as its president in 1981, when he was 36. He went on to lead four other major universities, including serving two stints at Ohio State.
After retiring from Ohio State in July, Gee signed a five-year, $5.8 million deal with OSU to stay in Columbus as president emeritus and as a faculty member. He took an unpaid leave of absence from OSU to serve as interim chief at West Virginia, but Gee had said early on that he would return to Ohio.
Ohio State created the Center for Higher Education Enterprise for Gee after he retired, and named him director. University trustees agreed to pay $1.5 million over five years to finance the center, which brings together faculty members from around the university to study issues including affordability and access to college.
The university also spent $50,000 to renovate an office for Gee.
OSU officials have yet to announce how the contract will change with Gee’s departure.
Since last year, he also has been at the helm of the Quality & Value in Higher Education initiative started by Gov. John Kasich to improve education in Ohio. As recently as December, Gee was making stops across Ohio to gather ideas for Kasich’s initiative. Gee had been expected to submit a report by summer.
The initiative will continue, and a report is still due to the governor later this year, said Jeff Robinson, a spokesman for the Ohio Board of Regents. But he deferred questions about Gee’s continued involvement with the program to Gee.