Former Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee has been recommended to be the permanent president of West Virginia University.
The announcement was made after an emergency meeting of the WVU presidential search committee Friday afternoon, according to a WVU press release.
Gee began as WVU’s president in January and was only set to remain in that position until a permanent president was selected. He’s on an unpaid leave from OSU, where he assumed the role of president emeritus after retiring.
OSU spokesman Gary Lewis said in an email Friday questions about whether Gee will remain on unpaid leave at OSU if he is approved as WVU’s permanent president “will be answered over the next few weeks.”
Lewis also emailed The Lantern a statement from OSU Interim President Joseph Alutto about the recommendation of Gee Friday afternoon.
“This is a great opportunity for Gordon Gee to continue the excellent work he has begun at West Virginia University. His deep affection and passion for the institution and the people of West Virginia are well-known and will combine to deep and lasting effect. I am excited for him and know he will accomplish remarkable things,” Alutto said in the statement.
A motion was introduced during a search committee meeting to ask the WVU Board of Governors to change the search procedures in a way that would allow the interim president to be a candidate for the permanent presidency and to “take all necessary steps to retain … Gee as the permanent president,” according to the release.
Gee said he is excited about the WVU committee’s recommendation.
“I am honored, energized and humbled by the committee’s recommendation today. My return to West Virginia has reminded me of the special spirit of this university and the unique role it plays in this state. I am also reminded of the warmth and friendship of the people of West Virginia which have been demonstrated over the past few months in full measure,” Gee said in a released statement.
Board Chairman and Chair of the Presidential Search Committee James Dailey II said he would support Gee becoming the permanent president.
“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 in a released statement. “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 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.”
Gee began his career of leading higher education institutions at WVU in 1981. He was the dean of WVU’s law school prior to his four-year stint as president. Gee later was president at Brown University, Vanderbilt University, the University of Colorado and held the top office twice at OSU.
Gee was OSU’s president from 1990-97 and from 2007 to July 1, when he retired.
Gee announced his decision to retire from OSU days after controversial comments he made at a Dec. 5, 2012, OSU Athletic Council meeting came under public scrutiny. Remarks about Notre Dame and the Southeastern Conference in particular brought national attention.
Gee said in December he did not intend to pursue WVU’s permanent presidency.
“The role that I’m playing precludes me from even thinking about it,” Gee said in an interview with The Lantern. “My interest is of being of service and being helpful.”
His annual salary at WVU was set to be $450,000.
Gee earned slightly less than $1.9 million in the 2011-12 fiscal year. Gee’s base salary as president emeritus and a tenured professor in the OSU Moritz College of Law, his new position at OSU post-retirement, was set to be $410,000, to be paid each year from 2013 through June 2018.
Gee told The Lantern in October he was not planning on pursuing another university presidency.
“This is my home, and look, I’ve done this longer than any person in this country, and I’ve had the greatest opportunities at the greatest institution one could possibly imagine. But I’m really committed to making a difference by doing what I’m doing now, by actually being engaged in this university family but also engaged in and talking about the issues of higher education,” Gee said.
Gee was set to continue work on Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s Quality and Value Initiative, a study he is leading to seek ways to improve Ohio’s higher education institutions, during his time at WVU.