CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- E. Gordon Gee will once again be president of West Virginia University. The state Higher Education Policy Commission unanimously approved his interim selection Friday.
Gee was president of WVU from 1981 to 1985. More recently he was president of Ohio State University from 2007 until his retirement in June -- his second stint at that school. In May, he ignited controversy, and abruptly retired, when anti-Catholic remarks that he had made jokingly at a meeting were made public.
Gee also has been president of Brown University and the University of Colorado, and was the chancellor at Vanderbilt University.
Gee, 69, will replace Jim Clements, who announced in November that he will leave WVU at the end of the year to become president of Clemson University.
"I am delighted that Dr. Gee has accepted our invitation to lead our state's flagship, land-grant," said James Dailey II, chairman of the WVU Board of Governors, in a news release. "He is a seasoned and respected higher education leader who has served five major universities over 33 years, and I am confident he will continue the great work going on."
In 2009, Time magazine named Gee one of the top 10 university presidents in the country.
Thomas Flaherty, vice chairman of the WVU Board of Governors, said Gee is the best choice because of his extensive experience and his previous tenure at WVU.
"He's energized to do it. He has told us it sort of brings him full circle, because West Virginia University was who gave him his first job as president," Flaherty, a Charleston lawyer, said after Friday's meeting. "He brings a wealth of knowledge, both nationally and at WVU. He's a perfect choice."
During Gee's previous tenure at WVU, the university established the WVU Research Corp. and restructured the WVU Foundation. It also incorporated WVU Hospitals, leading to the construction of Ruby Memorial Hospital.
In May, The Associated Press, through a public records request, obtained a recording of a December meeting of Ohio State's athletic council, on which Gee joked about not allowing Notre Dame to join the Big-10 because the university's priests can't be trusted.
"The fathers are holy on Sunday, and they're holy hell on the rest of the week," Gee said, over laughter. "You just can't trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday, and so, literally, I can say that."
After the remarks became public, Gee immediately apologized. He announced his retirement a week later.
On Friday, WVU's Flaherty said Gee's remarks were clearly in jest and did not factor into the board's decision.
"I'm an Irish Catholic, it didn't bother me," Flaherty said. "Notre Dame was not offended by it.
"You have to appreciate his sense of humor."
Gee previously came under fire for joking that he hoped Ohio State's football coach wouldn't fire him and for comparing other schools' football opponents to the "Little Sisters of the Poor."
Gee will be paid an annual salary of $470,000, a significant pay cut from his time at Ohio State, where his total compensation was about $1.9 million annually. He will live in Blaney House, the home of the university president.
The Board of Governors voted unanimously Thursday to approve an interim president. That president, who turned out to be Gee, was not named at the time. Instead, the board voted to approve the anonymous candidate that its members had discussed in a closed session.
The West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act generally prohibits public bodies from voting in private or using any means to obscure from the public exactly what they are voting on.
The law states that the publicly available agenda must be "sufficiently worded to enable the public to understand what is being deliberated."