Officials praise Gee pick for WVU

PARKERSBURG – With the announcement that E. Gordon Gee has been selected as the next president of West Virginia University, many supporters are speaking out in agreement.

“It’s an awesome hire,” said former Parkersburg Mayor Jimmy Colombo. “He does a lot for the universities he works for as well as the state, itself.

“The university couldn’t have found a better person for the job,” he said.

On Monday, the WVU Board of Governors announced Gee, who was most recently president of The Ohio State University from October 2007 through June 2013, would serve as the university’s 24th permanent president. Gee, 70, has been serving as the interim president for the university since Dec. 5, 2013.

“(Gee) was very well thought of at OSU and during his previous tenures at WVU,” said local attorney Bill Richardson Jr., a WVU alumnus and former president of the local alumni association. “He has a reputation of being an outstanding administrator and tends to work for the good of the individuals – professors, students, staff – as well as the university.”

Colombo echoed Richardson’s words and said his brother and several of his nephews attended OSU and were disappointed when Gee left the Buckeye State.

“When he was at Ohio State, Gee did so much good for that university that my brother’s sons knew the school, its students and professors would miss out with him gone,” Colombo said. “With everything going on (with Marcellus shale) in the Morgantown area, more than $1 billion being invested there, we need someone like Gordon Gee to work for not only WVU, but also the people and the state.”

U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., agreed with the selection of Gee for the university.

“Gordon Gee is an enormously talented individual that can contribute a lot to strengthen the university,” McKinley said.

Monday’s announcement marks Gee’s second appointment as president of WVU, as he began his career as university president in Morgantown in 1981, after having served as dean of the university’s law school for two years. This first stint ended in 1985. Since then he has served as president twice for OSU and once each for Brown University, Vanderbilt University and the University of Colorado.

“(Gee) was focused on the university when he first served as president and after meeting with him a month ago, it reinforced my belief that he is the obvious leader for West Virginia University,” McKinley said.

The announcement back-tracked on the university’s decision makers original plans, which stated Gee would not be considered a permanent replacement to Jim Clements, who left WVU at the end of last year.

“Gordon Gee is absolutely, hands down the very best person to be at the helm of West Virginia University at this important time and place in our history,” said James W. Dailey II, board chairman and chair of the search committee, in a statement. “I know we recruited him to serve until a permanent leader was in place and said the interim president would not be a candidate for the permanent presidency, but the search committee had a change of heart.”

Gee’s appointment is one vote shy of formal ratification and must pass the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. It is unknown when that will occur.

“Gordon Gee is one of those people who works for others,” Colombo said. “He works in the best interest of the professors, the students and the people of the state.

“He is a guy who came from the best of the best and is one of the best of the best and WVU is lucky to have him,” he added.