Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Returning President Reaffirms Wvu Ties Gee Says He's More Than a Caretaker

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Returning President Reaffirms Wvu Ties Gee Says He's More Than a Caretaker

Article excerpt

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- He showed up Tuesday fittingly attired -- right down to a newly purchased bow tie to augment the hundreds he owns, but the only one with West Virginia University's blue and gold colors.

Speaking to reporters and to well-wishers welcoming him back to campus, E. Gordon Gee, 69, said that rather than be a caretaker president, he would work to ensure that the research university of 33,000 students continues its push as the state's "singularly important institution."

And he pledged that he would try to remember during his temporary tenure something he did not fully grasp at age 36, the first time he became WVU's president more than three decades ago.

"The power of the university is that we are one university, that we are not a collection of colleges connected by a heating plant," he said. "You just don't have a health sciences center and you have a college of arts and sciences and you have college of engineering."

He said WVU's real strength is in "its size and its scope and the integration of ideas and opportunities."

Mr. Gee, one of American higher education's most colorful figures and president emeritus of Ohio State University, was reintroduced to the campus that launched his career as a university president. In less than a month, he begins a temporary stint as president while WVU looks for a permanent successor to Jim Clements, who has announced he will leave at year's end to head Clemson University.

Mr. Gee seemed right at home in the Erickson Alumni Center on Tuesday as he accepted applause at a campuswide reception preceded by a news conference. Wearing a blue jacket andV-neck sweater, he donned a WVU ball cap -- a gift presented to him during the news conference -- and seemed to relish the limelight as news photographers captured the moment.

Introduced by trustees chairman Jim Dailey II, Mr. Gee said he was grateful "for the opportunity I have to return to a place that I love and a place that I appreciate. But I most importantly want to thank the people of West Virginia. At age 36, they gave me an opportunity to have an extraordinary life."

He pledged to work with the school's faculty and spoke of the importance of land-grant universities such as WVU in "opening the door to the American dream to everyone. …

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