Earlier this afternoon, Ohio State's Dr. E. Gordon Gee announced that he will be retiring as president, effective on July 1st. To some, he was a character who stuck his foot in his mouth one too many times. To many students, he was a charismatic bow tie aficionado who was recognized on campus as a regular guy. To others, he may have been somewhere in between. Regardless of one's opinion on Dr. Gee, one thing that can't be denied is his love for the university and his passion to make Ohio State better than it had ever been before.
His most recent issues started when a recording was made public of comments made back in December during an Athletics Council meeting with several university presidents and athletic directors. In that meeting, Gee made jabs directed toward Notre Dame, the SEC, both Louisville and Kentucky and Bret Bielema. Shortly after these comments went public, he would later go on an "apology tour" -- trying to make amends with people and groups that had deemed his comments offensive.
One thing that may have been forgotten in all of this is just how successful of a leader he really was. In 2009, he was named one of the 10 best college presidents by Time Magazine. He also spearheaded fundraising efforts that had raised billions of dollars for Ohio State. The academic profile of the school has been growing as students from all over the country (myself included, being a Texas resident) were applying to Ohio State and giving the school a big boost in the overall prestige of the university.
Another reason for Dr. Gee's overwhelming popularity from the student body in Columbus was how he interacted with them. He wasn't a president who the only time you would hear from him would be at a commencement ceremony or some important university announcement. You would see him at a myriad of university functions; from football games to fraternity parties, he would make sure that he made each and every single student felt welcome at the school. He has done everything from visit students at their off-campus apartments for a spaghetti dinner to even writing letters of recommendation for students wishing to pursue graduate school. As of writing this, a new Facebook page "Ohio State Students for Gee" had been created and currently stands at 3,633 likes (and rising).
Some have gone to social media to express their opinions on the matter. Here are just a few samples:
It can be said that Gee's greatest strength was also his greatest weakness. This was definitely not the first time that he had been called out for what had been deemed inappropriate comments, as his candid attempts at humor did occasionally stray too far. There was the Polish Army joke, the "I Hope Tressel Doesn't Fire Me" quote, and now these latest off-the-cuff remarks proved to be the final straw of his tenure as president of The Ohio State University.
As a high-profile figure, Gee should have been more aware from the beginning as to what he said and how it would be perceived. While I was not personally offended by his remarks, I can understand how others would be. In this day and age, what a person says can have a lasting effect on how they are viewed, no matter how many good works that one has done throughout their lifetime. I believe that this is a shame that it has come down to this for Gee, but we all have to accept it and move forward.
Dr. Gee once said to "be insistently curious" about those who put you in what he calls a "neat demographic." He made a mistake, as we all have done, and even as a university president, he puts on his pants the same way the rest of us do: one leg at a time. It appears that Dr. Gee has moved forward and is content with his decision to retire. I believe that it's everyone best interest that we all do the same.