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Elwood Gordon Gee (born February 2, 1944 in Vernalmarker, Utahmarker) is an Americanmarker academic. He is in his second tenure as the president of Ohio State Universitymarker in Columbusmarker, Ohiomarker; he was previously president from 1990 to 1997.

Gee has held more university presidencies than any other American. Prior to his resumption of the presidency of Ohio State on October 1, 2007, Gee was chancellor of Vanderbilt Universitymarker from 2000 to 2007 and president of Brown Universitymarker from 1998 to 2000, of the University of Coloradomarker from 1985 to 1990, and of West Virginia Universitymarker from 1981 to 1985.

Gee's salary is $775,000. Time magazine rated Gee the best college president in the country.

Education and early career

Gee attended the University of Utahmarker where he was a member of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, and graduated with a bachelor of arts in history in 1968. After earning doctorates in law and education from Columbia University in 1971 and 1972, respectively, specializing in education law, Gee clerked for Supreme Courtmarker Chief Justice Warren Burger for one year.

After clerking for Justice Burger, Gee accepted a position as professor and associate dean at Brigham Young Universitymarker in Provo, Utahmarker. He became dean and professor at West Virginia University's law school in 1979, and president of the university two years later. As president of a university at age 37, he was one of the youngest chief executives in academia at the time.

After a successful administration at WVU, Gee moved to the University of Colorado in 1985, then to Ohio State University in 1990. At Ohio State, Gee met and married his second wife Constance. He became president of Brown Universitymarker in 1998.

Brown tenure

Gee was president of Brown for only two years, and his tenure was mired in controversy. According to The Village Voice and the College Hill Independent, one of the university's campus newspapers, Gee was criticized by students and faculty for treating the school like a Wall Streetmarker corporation rather than an Ivy League university.

Critics pointed to his decisions to sign off on an ambitious brain science program without consulting the faculty, to sell $80 million in bonds for the construction of a biomedical sciences building, and to cut the university's extremely popular Charleston String Quartet, which many saw as part of Gee's effort to lead the school away from its close but unprofitable relationship with the arts. Gee and his wife were also blamed for an extravagant renovation of the president's residence, which reportedly cost several million dollars.

Gee left under a storm of criticism in 2000, as members of the Brown community widely accused him of departing the school after an uncommonly short tenure because of Vanderbilt University's offer of a corporate-level salary and a tenured teaching position for his wife. According to a 2003 article by The Chronicle of Higher Education, Gee was the second highest paid university chief executive in the country with a purported total compensation package of more than $1.3 million.

Vanderbilt tenure

Gee with Ohio State University Students circa 1995-96.
Gee enjoyed a relatively calm tenure at Vanderbilt compared to Brown. He was generally well-liked by faculty and students, demonstrated by his uncommonly high student approval ratings. In 2005, when Gee's approval saw a comparatively sharp drop, it still stood at 88.4%. During his tenure, Vanderbilt saw a dramatic increase in student applications—more than 50% in six years—and a similarly dramatic rise in the SAT scores of incoming freshmen. Under his tenure, the university completed a $1.25 billion fundraising campaign two years ahead of schedule.

Gee holds a copy of the hoax newspaper that reported his death in 2003.
A September 2006 Wall Street Journal article detailed that some of Gee's problems at Vanderbilt—including his wife's actions (such as smoking marijuana in the chancellor's official residence), criticism of the high cost of renovating his home, and the couple's lavish spending—had come back to haunt him. Additionally, Gee's 2002 announcement that the administration was going to rename "Confederate Memorial Hall" without the word Confederate evoked a series of lawsuits. While Vanderbilt's board expressed some concern about Gee's spending, they also strongly endorsed his successful leadership. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, he received a total compensation of over $1.8 million in 2005/6, the highest of any continuing university president in the United States.

On March 11, 2003, a student satirical publication at Vanderbilt, The Slant, ran a complete mock-up of The Vanderbilt Hustler, entitled The Vanderbilt Huslter, with the headline GEE DEAD. The hoax received some attention from national media, including an appearance on the Drudge Report. Gee's office responded to the hoax by releasing a photo of him holding a copy of the Huslter (with Gee smiling). Despite Gee's good humor about the prank, the ensuing controversy led to the removal of The Slant's sophomore editor-in-chief David Barzelay from his post for inappropriately expropriating the Vanderbilt Hustler's news racks in violation of Vanderbilt Student Communications regulations. Gee discussed the hoax in his 2003 commencement speech.

In September 2003, Gee made national headlines when he eliminated the organized athletic department at Vanderbilt and consolidated its activities under the Division of Student Life, the university's general administrative division for student organizations and activities. Some critics cited this reorganization in the recruiting process to call into question Vanderbilt's commitment to football. However, Gee's action had its supporters, including NCAA President Myles Brand. Furthermore, a stellar spring for Vanderbilt athletic teams and a top-30 finish in the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Director's Cup ranking of college athletic programs for the 2003–04 academic year provided some vindication for Vanderbilt and Gee.

Second Ohio State tenure

On July 11, 2007, Gee announced that he would be returning to Ohio State as its president, ending his 7-year tenure at Vanderbilt. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, he will receive a base salary of total compensation of over $1 million, the highest of any public university president in the United States, though less than his pay at Vanderbilt.

Personal life

Gee was born and grew up in Vernalmarker, Utahmarker, 171 miles (275 km) east of Salt Lake Citymarker, the son of an oil company employee and a school teacher, both Mormon. He served a mission in Germany and Italy. Gee is an Eagle Scout and a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.Gee married twice. His first wife was the late Elizabeth D. Gee, with whom he had one daughter, Rebekah Gee, MD, MPH. He divorced his second wife, the former Constance (Connie) Marie Bumgarner in 2007. Bumgarner is an associate professor of public policy and education at Peabody Collegemarker, a part of Vanderbilt University.

Massey Energy

Gee had served on the board of the coal company Massey Energy since 2000, but resigned in May 2009 in response to a prolonged citizen campaign focused on Massey's worker safety and environmental record.. Massey has come under harsh criticism for toxic coal sludge spills in Kentucky waterways, numerous deaths at Massey-owned mines including the Aracoma Alma Mine accident, and the practice of mountaintop removal mining.


  1. E. Gordon Gee: Introducing the seventeenth president by Norman Boucher, Brown Alumni Magazine, September/October 1997. Accessed October 12, 2004.
  2. Premature Evacuation: Why Did Gordon Gee Abandon Brown? by Blake A. Zeff, The Village Voice, August 2, 2000. Retrieved October 29, 2005.
  3. Closing In on $1-Million by Julianne Basinger, The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 14, 2003. Retrieved August 2, 2005.
  4. Page B13, Nov.16, 2007
  5. Strike up the Vandy! by David Vecsey,, September 12, 2003. Retrieved October 29, 2005.
  6. Gordon Gee (March 28, 2006). Everything I Know about Being a Mormon I Learned from Running Universities, BYU Forum.

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