Right Man for the Job

E. Gordon Gee brought an amazing level of energy to Morgantown during the two months he served as interim president of West Virginia University. In a position some may have used to kick back and relax, filling an office while the search committee furiously sought out a suitable candidate, Gee got to work.

Bow-tie lessons notwithstanding, Gee made an instant connection with the student body, earning approval from the student representative to the Board of Governors, who said “Students greatly appreciate his caring involvement.”

Faculty members and classified staff also appear to be glad to have the opportunity to continue discussions and work with Gee. Those are discussions he did not have to begin. Gee could have contented himself with holiday videos and Flying WV cookies – important public relations efforts he masterfully handled, by the way – but instead he chose to be an active, invested interim president. He chose to take on problems he will now take part in solving.

West Virginia’s flagship university is facing a great deal of change in the coming years. The jobs for which students are preparing and the economy they will be entering as job-seekers are not what they were even a few years ago. Universities across the country are faced with the task of preparing students for the real world without burdening those students with more debt than they can handle.

Mountaineer athletics is in another cycle of rumor and uncertainty, with its foray into the Big 12 still in its early stages. The Evansdale campus is seeing expansion and development meant to accommodate a growing student body and fulfill evolving student needs. Morgantown is growing up around the university in ways Gee might never have imagined during his first tenure as WVU president, from 1981-85.

But, as Gee said, in many ways WVU is still “the same wonderful and welcoming place I remembered.” Gee knows what lies at the heart of WVU, and he knows how important the university is to the people of West Virginia. He is the right man for the job.