The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Editorials

March 5, 2014

Welcome home

Welcome back, E. Gordon Gee.

Gee was named West Virginia University’s president on Monday, the third time he’s been asked to lead the university. Gee, now 70, first served as president from 1981-85, then returned in an interim role in January and is now the school’s 24th full-time 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,” Board of Governors chair James W. Dailey II said. “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 and the Board had a change of heart.”

Gee has twice served as president of Ohio State University, and was president of Vanderbilt, Brown and Colorado. He also is a former dean of the WVU College of Law.

Gee’s past has been, to the dismay of some academics, as colorful as his signature bow ties.

At Brown University, he earned the criticism of some in that community due to an allegedly extravagant, multi-million dollar renovation of the president’s residence. He also was accused of trying to turn the Ivy League school into a Wall Street corporation, which some of his supporters said could be an improvement.

At Vanderbilt, he made national headlines when he eliminated the athletic department and put it under the Division of Student Life. Many questioned his commitment to big-time athletics in the Southeastern Conference, but the success of Vandy’s athletic programs provides some vindication.

Over his career, Gee riled some people with several colorful quips.

n “I do know, having been both a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president, that it’s like murderer’s row every week for these schools. We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor.” He apologized after, to his apparent surprise, he found the Little Sisters were a long-established Roman Catholic congregation.

n He apologized to a Polish group in 2011 for characterizing running Ohio State as akin to running the Polish army.

n In 2012, he offended some Catholics with his reasoning behind why he opposed Notre Dame University joining the Big Ten conference: “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 d*** Catholics on a Thursday or Friday.” He apologized, but not until six months had passed.

Gee’s tenures at WVU have been free of similar controversies. Frankly, we like a man or woman who speaks his or her mind.

And like his colorful ties, we find Gee a refreshing breeze in the often smothering, politically correct officialdom that parades as leadership on the modern campus these days.

Among the things we love and respect about our fellow West Virginians is that we’re slow to anger and quick to forgive. We’re willing to judge Dr. Gee solely on his contributions to WVU, and to residents of the state who look to the school for leadership.

Welcome home, Dr. Gee.

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