MORGANTOWN -- For E. Gordon Gee, returning to West Virginia University will serve as a homecoming of sorts.
The university in 1981 made Gee its 19th president, when he was just 36. On Friday, following approval from the Higher Education Policy Commission, it named him interim president for a term that will start in January.
Since leaving WVU in 1985, Gee, 69, has twice served as president of the Ohio State University, from 1990-97 and later from 2007 to July of this year. He was also president of Vanderbilt University (2000-07), Brown University (1998-2000) and the University of Colorado (1985-90). He also served as the dean of the WVU College of Law from 1979-81.
Former Ohio State University president E. Gordon Gee gives his retirement speech during a board of trustees meeting in Columbus on June 7.
"West Virginia University is where my journey as a university president began more than three decades ago, so it has always had a special meaning for me," Gee said. "When I was 36, this great land-grant institution gave me an extraordinary opportunity to serve as its president. Indeed, I understand the mission of land-grant institutions, and know the importance of WVU to the state and the university community. I am delighted now to be able to come back and give back to the West Virginia University community while also continuing my commitments to Ohio State, as well as higher education in Ohio and nationally."
He replaces Jim Clements at WVU, who announced in November he would leave at the end of this year.
Gee currently serves as president emeritus at Ohio State. At WVU, he will live at Blaney House, and fully participate in the active life of a university president.
"I am delighted that Dr. Gee has accepted our invitation to lead our state's flagship, land-grant university while we conduct a national search for a new WVU system leader," said WVU Board Chairman James W. Dailey II. "He is a seasoned and respected higher education leader who has served five major universities over 33 years, and I am confident he will continue the great work going on here and the momentum this university is enjoying. What's more, he understands the national higher education landscape and is very familiar with our university. We're thrilled to welcome WVU's 19th president home."
Dailey said Gee is expected to be on campus Tuesday for a meet-and-greet with the WVU community.
Gee will serve until a permanent president is in place. He will take an unpaid leave of absence from Ohio State.
Gee retired as Ohio State's president earlier this year after remarks he made against Roman Catholics and Southeastern Conference schools became public. The full audio of his remarks can be found online at www.theintelligencer.net.
Born and raised in Utah, Gee earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Utah and a law and doctoral degree from Columbia University.
His annualized salary at WVU will be $450,000.
Ohio State interim President Joseph A. Alutto said WVU "will have a strong leader in Gordon Gee."
"Given Gordon's deep experience and understanding of the power of the land-grant mission in the 21st century, he is certain to move WVU forward in meaningful ways," Alutto said.
During Gee's prior tenure, WVU Hospitals was incorporated "through the hard work of the West Virginia Legislature and many good friends and WVU supporters," Gee said. That effort also led to the construction of Ruby Memorial Hospital.
The WVU Research Corp. was established under his leadership to elevate the importance of innovation and the research enterprise as part of the land-grant mission.
He has been a member of many education-governance organizations and committees, including the Big Ten Conference Council of Presidents, the Inter-University Council of Ohio, the Business-Higher Education Forum and the American Association of Universities. He was also chair of the American Council on Education's Commission on Higher Education Attainment and served as co-chair of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities' Energy Advisory Committee.
He is the father of a daughter, Rebekah, who is the Medicaid Medical Director for the state of Louisiana and assistant professor at Louisiana State University School of Medicine and School of Public Health. He has five grandchildren.
During Friday's meeting, the Higher Education Policy Commission also approved procedures and guidelines for WVU's national presidential search. Dailey will chair the committee and it will include the following voting members: three faculty, three staff, three students, three BOG members, two administrators, two alumni and two WVU Foundation representatives and one representative from the two divisional campuses. In addition, Gee will serve as an adviser to the BOG and search committee, and HEPC Chancellor Paul Hill will serve as an ex-officio, non-voting member of the committee.
"Our goal will continue to be to have a new president in place by fall," Dailey said. "Finding the right person to continue to lead this great university forward will be one of the most important things any of us on this presidential search committee do."