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Gee's plan: Maintain WVU momentum

Chip Ellis
Incoming interim West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee speaks Tuesday at the Erickson Alumni Center in Morgantown.
Chip Ellis Incoming interim West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee (right) shares a laugh Tuesday with former interim WVU President C. Peter Magrath and his special assistant, Sara Master.
Chip Ellis A thin layer of snow coats the lawn enclosed by Woodburn Circle, on West Virginia University's Downtown Campus Tuesday. From left are Martin, Woodburn and Chitwood halls.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Incoming interim West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee said Tuesday his goal as the school's interim president is to continue working on what the university is already doing so the next president will have a smooth transition.

"My commitment is to continue this institutional momentum," he said Tuesday at a news conference at the Erickson Alumni Center in Morgantown.

Gee, who was named interim president last week, was WVU's president from 1981 to 1985. He also has headed Ohio State University twice, as well as Brown University, Vanderbilt University and the University of Colorado.

He will take office Jan. 6, replacing Jim Clements, who is leaving Jan. 1 to become president of Clemson University, in South Carolina.

This summer, Gee retired as Ohio State's president after it was leaked that he denounced a number of universities during an OSU athletic council meeting and made offensive comments about Catholics.

Gee said Monday he is looking forward to working with faculty and students at WVU. He plans to listen to their concerns to see if there is anything he can do for them in the short term, he said.

"I strongly believe this generation has the ability to change the world," he said.

Gee said he has a lot of reading to catch up on, including the university's outline of its strategic plan. "I'm not coming to an institution that's broken. I'm coming to an institution that has a tremendous amount of momentum," he said.

He said he also wants to travel to all of the state's counties.

"Can't say that I'll make it to all 55," he said, "but I'm going to try."

Board of Governors Chairman James Dailey II said Gee is the right choice for WVU. Few candidates who interviewed for the position displayed as much knowledge and dedication for the role, Dailey said. Gee impressed BOG members during several telephone interviews before he was offered the job.

"We brought a billion-dollar organization a trillion-dollar man," Dailey said.

Clements said Tuesday that Gee is a good leader who shows passion for the university's land-grant mission.

"He brings a wealth of experience that will help him continue the very positive trajectory the university is on," Clements said.

Gee said one of the things he wants to accomplish is to unite the university's many campuses into one unified campus. He said officials on the Health Sciences campus rarely meet with officials at the Engineering campus, for example.

WVU Provost Michele Wheatly said she's looking forward to working with Gee during the transition to a permanent president.

"He has led some very prestigious academic institutions and brings a great deal of knowledge and experience with him," Wheatly said.

Few students interviewed Tuesday were aware of Gee's appointment. WVU Student Government President Ryan Campione said that probably would change once Gee becomes more visible on campus.

"Student government is eager to work with him to continue the recent positive momentum within the university," Campione said.

Gee spent Tuesday afternoon meeting with the BOG and faculty who came to his news conference. He smiled and said he's most excited about meeting more students.

"The students, I love," Gee said. "They keep me young -- and sometimes, I keep them young."

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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