By Lacey Palmer
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — With gold and blue paper bow ties on both of his computer monitors and his office bathroom mirror, it’s obvious West Virginia University President Gordon Gee is a fan of the fashion statement.
Gee, who dons a bow tie nearly everywhere he goes, began his collection at the age of 15 in the rural town of Vernal, Utah.
“I went to Salt Lake City with my father to get my eyes examined, and there was this guy sitting next to me with one of these things on, and I was looking at it, because I’d never seen one before,” Gee said. “So, he could tell my curiosity, he undid it, and I just became fascinated with it.
“I begged my father to get me one, and the rest is history.”
While other university presidents may spend their money on traveling, luxurious hotels, fancy dinners and lavish parties, Gee buys bow ties. He currently has more than 1,000 “active” ties in his collection and another 1,000 that were recently converted into a blanket as a birthday gift.
“I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t play golf and I don’t play tennis, but I buy bow ties,” Gee said. “That’s kind of my indulgence.”
Throughout the years, Gee has received numerous bow ties as gifts, and with the list of universities where he’s served as president, such as Ohio State, Brown, Vanderbilt and WVU, the variety of colors and designs are endless.
Gee doesn’t have a favorite bow tie, though, as he said that would be like choosing one child over another. He also aims to wear each bow tie only once per year.
“I kind of have a way to circulate them, and I keep them color coordinated,” Gee said. “I’m OCD badly (sic), so they all have to be hung exactly the right way…”