MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- At his first public appearance as the incoming president of West Virginia University, new interim president E. Gordon Gee characterized his return to the school as a homecoming.
Gee got his start as a university president at WVU in 1981, and in the 33 years since has amassed experience in administrative positions at five major universities.
On Tuesday, at a meet-and-greet on WVU's campus, Gee acquitted himself like a seasoned veteran of university administration: he wore his signature bow tie in blue and gold, cracked jokes to riotous laughter in a display of his well-documented good humor and waxed poetic on WVU's position in the academic world and in West Virginia.
"I believe it is the job of the university president to set the tone, maintain momentum and to tell a great story," he said Tuesday in a meeting with press.
University officials have touted Gee as a president who marries national clout--he was once named by TIME as one of the top 10 university presidents in the country--with a fondness and familiarity with WVU and West Virginia.
Gee himself reaffirmed that notion Tuesday, saying he sees this return to WVU as a way to revisit the institution that launched his career.
"This is a very important moment for me," he said to a crowd of well wishers Tuesday at the reception in his honor. "It's the closing of a circle in my life that is so very meaningful."
His agenda for his presidency -- which will last just over one term, from early January until just before the beginning of the fall 2014 semester -- is largely abstract and ideological. He acknowledges that one semester isn't much time -- probably not enough to significantly alter the course of the university, or to revisit pet projects from his first round as WVU's president.