By Alex Lang
The Dominion Post
MORGANTOWN — E. Gordon Gee said he doesn’t like the “interim” tag because that implies a seat warmer — and he plans to be more than that.
“I intend on being a very aggressive advocate for the university in all sectors,” Gee said in a telephone interview with The Dominion Post shortly after being named WVU interim president Friday.
He added that he doesn’t want the university to lose any momentum. In fact, he wants to see if he can build on it. Gee said he told the Board of Governors he will be “president for a term.”
On Friday, Gee was publicly introduced as WVU’s next president until a permanent replacement can be found. In November, Jim Clements announced he is leaving for the presidency at Clemson University, in South Carolina.
The Board of Governors approved Gee’s appointment Thursday, though it did not reveal his name. He was identified following the Higher Education Policy Commission’s (HEPC) meeting and unanimous approval.
Gee said he was first contacted about the position two weeks ago. Initially, he had to think about the role as he was very engaged in his work at Ohio State and was preparing to teach a course at Harvard University.
“My initial reaction was I needed to think about it,” Gee said. “But, after I thought about it for a day, I realized all the ties that bind, and the deep respect I have for the university and the affection I have for the people of the state. In some ways it’s a wonderful way to close the circle.”
Gee will take a leave of absence from his role as a law professor and president emeritus at The Ohio State University. He was president at WVU from 1981-’85 and also served as dean of the College of Law. Since leaving WVU, he has also served as a president at Vanderbilt, Brown and University of Colorado.
Gee said that he has maintained many relationships since leaving WVU and returning to the university will have a big impact.
“I think it’s going to be very powerful for me,” Gee said. “I think in many ways it will be quite emotional.”
Clements has done a remarkable job and was bright and energetic, Gee said. Large, land-grant institutions that make a difference will be the engine that drives the country, he said.
“I would say the state of the university is very strong right now,” Gee said.