E. Gordon Gee

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Gordon Gee
Gee in 2007
19th and 24th President of West Virginia University
Assumed office
January 1, 2014
Acting: January 1, 2014 – March 3, 2014
Preceded byJames P. Clements
In office
July 1, 1981 – June 30, 1985
Preceded byGene Budig
Succeeded byNeil Bucklew
11th and 14th President of Ohio State University
In office
October 1, 2007 – June 30, 2013
Preceded byJoseph A. Alutto (Acting)
Succeeded byJoseph A. Alutto (Acting)
In office
September 1, 1990 – January 2, 1998
Preceded byEdward H. Jennings
Succeeded byJohn Sisson (Acting)
7th Chancellor of Vanderbilt University
In office
July 7, 2000 – August 1, 2007
Preceded byJoe B. Wyatt
Succeeded byNicholas S. Zeppos
17th President of Brown University
In office
January 6, 1998 – February 7, 2000
Preceded byVartan Gregorian
Succeeded byRuth Simmons
15th President of the University of Colorado System
In office
Preceded byWilliam Baughn
Succeeded byWilliam Baughn
Personal details
Elwood Gordon Gee

(1944-02-02) February 2, 1944 (age 80)
Vernal, Utah, U.S.
Elizabeth Dutson
(m. 1968; died 1991)
(m. 1994; div. 2007)
Academic background
ThesisAn Examination and Analysis of Public Employment Relations Statutes with Recommendations for Statutory Treatment of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education (1972)
Doctoral advisorWalter Sindlinger
Other advisorsMichael Brick

Elwood Gordon Gee (born February 2, 1944) is an American academic administrator. As of 2023, he is serving his second term as president of West Virginia University;[1][2] his first term there was from 1981 to 1985. Gee is said to have held more university presidencies than any other American.[3] He was head of University of Colorado Boulder from 1985 to 1990, of Ohio State University from 1990 to 1997, of Brown University from 1998 to 2000, of Vanderbilt University from 2000 to 2007, and of Ohio State University for a second time from 2007 to 2013.[4]

Gee stepped down from the Ohio State presidency in 2013 after controversies about anti-Catholic comments allegedly made in jest about the University of Notre Dame. He headed an Ohio State-based think tank before returning to West Virginia University.

Early life, education, and early career[edit]

Gee was born in Vernal, Utah which is southeast of Salt Lake City, the son of an oil company employee and a school teacher. Growing up a Mormon in Vernal, he served a mission in Germany and Italy.[5] He is an Eagle Scout and a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award. He attended the University of Utah and graduated with a B.A. in history in 1968. After earning a J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1971 and an Ed.D. from Teachers College, Columbia University in 1972,[6] Gee was named a judicial fellow and staff assistant to the Supreme Court for one year.[7]

After clerking for Chief Justice Warren Burger, Gee accepted a position as professor and associate dean at Brigham Young University. He became dean and professor at West Virginia University's law school in 1979, and president of the university two years later. As president of a university at age 37, he was one of the youngest chief executives in academia at the time.[8]

Brown University[edit]

Gee was president of Brown for only two years, and his tenure was mired in controversy.[9] According to The Village Voice and The College Hill Independent, one of the university's campus newspapers, Gee was criticized by students and faculty for treating the school like a Wall Street corporation rather than an Ivy League university.[10]

Critics pointed to his decisions to sign off on an ambitious brain science program without consulting the faculty, to sell $80 million in bonds for the construction of a biomedical sciences building, and to cut the university's extremely popular Charleston String Quartet, which many saw as part of Gee's effort to lead the school away from its close but unprofitable relationship with the arts.[10]

Gee left under a storm of criticism in 2000, as members of the Brown community widely accused him of departing from the school after an uncommonly short tenure because of Vanderbilt University's offer of a corporate-level salary and a tenured teaching position for his wife. According to a 2003 article by The Chronicle of Higher Education, Gee was the second highest paid university chief executive in the country with a purported total compensation package of more than $1.3 million.[11]

The E. Gordon Gee Lavatory Complex at Brown's Spring Weekend

Gee's tumultuous tenure at Brown is commemorated annually with the "E. Gordon Gee Lavatory Complex," a collection of portable toilets that appears during Spring Weekend.[12]

Vanderbilt University[edit]

Gee had high student approval ratings. In 2005, when Gee's approval saw a comparatively sharp drop, it still stood at 88.4%.[13] During his tenure, Vanderbilt saw a dramatic increase in student applications— more than 50% in six years—and a rise in the SAT scores of incoming freshmen. Under his tenure, the university completed a $1.25 billion fundraising campaign two years ahead of schedule.[14]

A September 2006 The Wall Street Journal article detailed that some of Gee's problems at Vanderbilt—including his wife's actions (such as smoking marijuana in the chancellor's official residence), criticism of the high cost of renovating his home, and the couple's lavish spending—had come back to haunt him.[citation needed] Additionally, Gee's 2002 announcement that the administration was going to rename Confederate Memorial Hall without the word Confederate provoked a series of lawsuits. While Vanderbilt's board expressed some concern about Gee's spending, they also strongly endorsed his successful leadership. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education,[15] he received a total compensation of over $1.8 million in 2005/6, the highest of any continuing university president in the United States.

On March 11, 2003, a student satirical publication at Vanderbilt, The Slant, ran a complete mock-up of The Vanderbilt Hustler, entitled The Vanderbilt Huslter, with the headline "GEE DEAD". The hoax received some attention from national media, including an appearance on the Drudge Report. Gee's office responded to the hoax by releasing a photo of him holding a copy of the Hustler (with Gee smiling). Despite Gee's good humor about the prank, a controversy ensued.[16]

In September 2003, Gee made national headlines when he eliminated the organized athletic department at Vanderbilt and consolidated its activities under the Division of Student Life, the university's general administrative division for student organizations and activities. Some critics cited this reorganization in the recruiting process to call into question Vanderbilt's commitment to football.[17] However, Gee's action had its supporters, including NCAA President Myles Brand.[18] Furthermore, a stellar spring for Vanderbilt athletic teams and a top-30 finish in the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Director's Cup ranking of college athletic programs for the 2003–04 academic year provided some vindication for Vanderbilt and Gee.

Ohio State University[edit]

Gee with Ohio State University Students circa 1995–96

On July 11, 2007, Gee announced that he would be returning to Ohio State University as its president, ending his 7-year tenure at Vanderbilt.[19] According to The Chronicle of Higher Education,[15] he was to receive a base salary of total compensation of over $1 million, the highest of any public university president in the United States, though less than his pay at Vanderbilt.

Controversy arose over Gee's alleged usage of public money to live an extravagant lifestyle. The Dayton Daily News of Dayton, Ohio, reported that "Ohio State has spent more than $64,000 on bow ties, bow tie cookies and O-H and bow tie pins for Gee and others to distribute."[20]

Gee repeatedly came under fire from the media following public statements of his. In 2010, Gee stated, when talking about the rather weaker schedules of mid-major football programs at Boise State and Texas Christian University compared to the schedules of Ohio State and other Big Ten and SEC programs, "I do know, having been both a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president, that it's like murderers' row every week for these schools. We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor. We play very fine schools on any given day". Gee would later apologize for his comments about this well established Roman Catholic Congregation, who have been operating in the United States since 1868.[21] He later visited the Little Sisters of the Poor, and claimed he did not know about the organization when he made the comments. TCU ended up getting the last laugh, winning the 2011 Rose Bowl; following the win, a group of TCU alumni paid for space on several digital billboards in the Columbus area in which the "Little Sisters of the Poor" congratulated TCU on its victory.[22]

In 2011, Gee came under fire again for anti-Polish sentiment after comparing being the president at Ohio State to running the Polish army. Gee would later regret making the comment after Polish-American groups strongly responded to his joke about their ethnicity. In response to Gee's remarks, the Polish American Congress demand Gee apologize for "his slur on the military of a nation that has been fighting valiantly and effectively alongside the United States" and for "bigotry and ignorance expressed by the president of such a large and prominent American university, especially since Ohio has a large Polish-American population and many OSU students are of Polish heritage."[23]

In December 2012 Gee made offensive anti-Catholic statements. Gee said that the University of Notre Dame should not be added to the Big Ten:

I negotiated with them during my first term and the fathers are holy on Sunday and they're holy hell on the rest of the week. You just can't trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or Friday.[24]

On March 11, 2013, Ohio State University trustees sent Gee a letter complaining that he had embarrassed the school with his comments. The anti-defamation chair of the Ancient Order of Hibernians responded with shock that it took six months for Gee to apologize, saying that "this delayed action smacks of damage control for the media, rather than a sincere effort to address a bigoted insult to Catholics."[25]

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League took a more sympathetic tack regarding the issue: "It's time for everyone to take a deep breath," he commented. "I have never met President Gee, but it is clear from what I read that what he said was made in jest. Was it dumb? ... yes. But context and tone matter, as does the frequency of what may be considered an offensive remark: a real bigot is someone who repeatedly, and maliciously, attacks others. Gee is not such a man. Political correctness has gone too far."[26]

The Ohio State trustees also felt that Gee made insensitive public comments about the University of Cincinnati, University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, and the Southeastern Conference. The letter laid out the steps Gee must take, which included issuing personal apologies and obtaining professional help to improve personal communications and speech writing processes. Shortly thereafter, the full text of Gee's remarks became public, and it was revealed that during the same speech, he had also taken shots at former Wisconsin football head coach Bret Bielema, saying "[Wisconsin athletic director] Barry Alvarez thought he was a thug."[24][27] When asked about the SEC and Louisville saying the Big Ten couldn't count after the conference added Maryland and Rutgers during the early-2010s conference realignment to expand the conference to 14 teams, Gee ridiculed the academic standards of Louisville and the SEC schools, saying once they "learned to read and write", they could start thinking about conference expansion. Gee released an official apology and called his words a poor attempt at humor.[28]

Gee's base salary[when?] was $802,125, with a total compensation package of $1.6 million. In 2009, he donated a $200,531 bonus and his $20,053 raise to scholarship funds.[29]

In 2013, Gee earned $6,057,615 from Ohio State University.[30]

On June 4, 2013, Gee announced his retirement. In a news release, he said, "After much deliberation, I have decided it is now time for me to turn over the reins of leadership to allow the seeds that we have planted to grow. It is also time for me to reenergize and refocus myself."[31]

West Virginia University[edit]

On December 5, 2013, West Virginia University announced that Gee would become its interim president until the search for a permanent president concluded.[32] Following an endorsement by the West Virginia University presidential search committee on February 28, 2014,[33] Gee was appointed by the Board of Governors at WVU on March 3 to be the University's 24th permanent president. In August 2023, Gee announced a plan to shutter 10% of the university's majors, eliminate all language teaching, and fire 16% of its faculty, to address a budget crunch caused largely by the ill-fated expansion program that he previously pushed.[34][35]

On September 6, 2023, the Faculty Assembly of the university passed a symbolic vote of no confidence resolution against Gee, citing his plans to cut faculty and majors.[36] Similarly, in December 2023, the University Assembly published a no confidence vote against Gee, by a vote of 797 to 100.[37]

Personal life[edit]

Gee has been married twice. His first wife was Elizabeth D. Gee, with whom he had one daughter, Rebekah Gee. Gordon and his daughter were featured on an episode of the public radio show This American Life discussing life after Elizabeth's death.[38] Gee divorced his second wife, Constance Bumgarner Gee, in 2007.[39] During the summer of 2016, Gee became engaged to Laurie Erickson of the Erickson Foundation.[40] Gee's daughter Rebekah was appointed Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals in 2016.[41]

In 2001, Gee received the Judge Elbert P. Tuttle Distinguished Achievement Award, the highest recognition of achievement in the Pi Kappa Alpha International fraternity.[42] In 2012, Gee became the first Honorary Esteemed Member of the University of Colorado's Buff Bow Tie Bunch (BBTB).[43]

Gee has donated more than $10,000 to Democratic and Republican political campaigns since 2010.[44]

Gee served on the board of directors of L Brands.[45]


  1. ^ "Gee appointed West Virginia University president -- for a third time". WVUtoday. March 3, 2014. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  2. ^ "Board names Gordon Gee as WVU president". Charleston Daily Mail (Press release). Morgantown, WV. Associated Press. March 4, 2014. Retrieved March 4, 2014.
  3. ^ Rosenthal, Eric T. (December 25, 2007). "Shape Shifting the Matrix Model: OSU/James Hospital Structure May Emerge Stronger Following Institutional Infighting". Oncology Times. 29 (24): 22–26. doi:10.1097/01.COT.0000305574.26166.dd.
  4. ^ "Holbrook seeks top job at university in Florida". The Columbus Dispatch. August 17, 2007. Retrieved September 23, 2007.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ Gordon Gee (March 28, 2006). Everything I Know about Being a Mormon I Learned from Running Universities. BYU Forum, Retrieved November 24, 2021.
  6. ^ Gee, Elwood Gordon (1972). An examination and analysis of state public employment statutes with recommendations for statutory treatment of institutions of higher education (Ed.D.). Columbia University. OCLC 82869401 – via ProQuest.
  7. ^ "About the President". Archived from the original on March 13, 2013. Retrieved March 26, 2013. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. ^ "E. Gordon Gee: 1998–2000 | Office of the President". Brown.edu. Archived from the original on February 28, 2014. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  9. ^ "Culture clash: Did the PC police chase e. Gordon Gee from Brown University?". Providence Phoenix. Archived from the original on January 12, 2017. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  10. ^ a b Blake A. Zeff (August 2, 2000). "Premature Evacuation: Why Did Gordon Gee Abandon Brown?". The Village Voice. Retrieved October 29, 2005.
  11. ^ Julianne Basinger (November 14, 2003). "Closing In on $1-Million". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved August 2, 2005.
  12. ^ Staff (September 4, 2009). "Brown A-Z 2009–2010". post- Magazine. Archived from the original on April 6, 2010. Retrieved April 8, 2010.
  13. ^ Ceryanec, Megan (March 23, 2005). "Gee's approval rating near 90 percent". The Vanderbilt Hustler.
  14. ^ "Gordon Gee steps down as Vanderbilt Chancellor". Retrieved August 4, 2018.
  15. ^ a b Page B13, Nov.16, 2007
  16. ^ Berger, Meredith (March 14, 2003). "Slant hoax ends in apologies". The Vanderbilt Hustler. Archived from the original on December 29, 2003. Retrieved October 11, 2007.
  17. ^ "Barnhart: Best and worst SEC jobs". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. December 13, 2006. Archived from the original on December 15, 2006. Retrieved December 13, 2006.
  18. ^ ^ Strike up the Vandy! by David Vecsey, sportsillustrated.com, September 12, 2003. Retrieved October 29, 2005.
  19. ^ Loos, Ralph (July 11, 2007). "Gee to leave Vanderbilt for Ohio State". The Tennessean. Retrieved July 11, 2007. [dead link]
  20. ^ Bischoff, Laura (September 22, 2012). "OSU president expenses in the millions". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved November 17, 2012.
  21. ^ s:Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Little Sisters of the Poor
  22. ^ Piellucci, Mike (January 7, 2011). "TCU alumni taunt Buckeyes with signs". Fox Sports Southwest. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
  23. ^ Jim Woods (January 13, 2012). "Polish group seeks apology from Gee | The Columbus Dispatch". Dispatch.com. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  24. ^ a b SI, Staff (May 31, 2013). "Listen to Ohio State's Gordon Gee's controversial remarks in their entirety". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on June 7, 2013. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  25. ^ "A Letter from the Anti-Defamation Chair regarding comments made by Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee — Ancient Order of Hibernians". Aoh.com. June 2, 2013. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  26. ^ "OHIO ST. UNIV. PREZ IS NO BIGOT — Catholic League". catholicleague.org. May 30, 2013. Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  27. ^ Welsh-Huggins, Andrew (May 31, 2013). "Trustees: Ohio State president 'embarrassed' school". Associated Press. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  28. ^ "Ohio State prez calls out everyone". May 30, 2013. Retrieved August 4, 2018.
  29. ^ [1] Archived March 2, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ Weissmann, Jordan (May 20, 2014). "This State College President Earned $6 Million Last Year. Should You Be Mad?". Slate. Retrieved August 4, 2018.
  31. ^ "Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee to retire | The Columbus Dispatch". Dispatch.com. June 4, 2013. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  32. ^ "Former Ohio State President Gordon Gee to be interim president at West Virginia University, reports say". Cleveland.com. December 6, 2013. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  33. ^ "WVU presidential search committee endorses Gee for permanent post". Wvutoday.wvu.edu. December 20, 2013. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  34. ^ "WVU's plan to cut foreign languages, other programs draws disbelief". The Washington Post. August 18, 2023. Retrieved August 18, 2023.
  35. ^ Corrigan, Lisa M. (August 16, 2023). "The Evisceration of a Public University". The Nation. Retrieved August 25, 2023.
  36. ^ "West Virginia University faculty express symbolic no confidence in President E. Gordon Gee". ABC News. Retrieved September 6, 2023.
  37. ^ [2]
  38. ^ "401: Parent Trap". This American Life. Chicago Public Radio. February 19, 2010. Retrieved March 1, 2010.
  39. ^ "Vanderbilt Chancellor Gee and wife agree on divorce". NashvillePost.com. February 28, 2007. Retrieved February 28, 2007.
  40. ^ Gee, Gordon. "Gee Mail: A summer of engagement". West Virginia University. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
  41. ^ Litten, Kevin (January 27, 2016). "New Louisiana health secretary Rebekah Gee knows about tragedy". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved October 10, 2017.
  42. ^ "Alumni Affairs". Retrieved February 18, 2010.[dead link]
  43. ^ Reimold, Dan. "Student bow tie club pushes for an 'elevated level of dressing-up on campus'". USA Today. Archived from the original on April 12, 2012. Retrieved April 10, 2012.
  44. ^ "Donor Lookup: Find Individual and Soft Money Contributors". OpenSecrets. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  45. ^ "L Brands names Les Wexner's replacement as board chair". Retail Dive. Retrieved September 14, 2022.
Academic offices
Preceded by President of West Virginia University
Succeeded by
Neil Bucklew
Preceded by
William Baughn
President of the University of Colorado System
Succeeded by
William Baughn
Preceded by President of Ohio State University
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of Brown University
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chancellor of Vanderbilt University
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of Ohio State University
Succeeded by
Joseph A. Alutto
Preceded by President of West Virginia University