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Board names Gordon Gee as WVU president

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia University Board of Governors unanimously voted Monday to make E. Gordon Gee the school's 24th president. The decision will now go before the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission for approval.

Gee, who was WVU president from 1981 to 1985, has been the interim president since Jim Clements left to helm Clemson University in November.

At the time, the board decided Gee would only serve as an interim until a presidential search committee found a replacement. The board also decided he would not be considered a permanent candidate.

Search committee members changed their minds at an emergency meeting Friday and requested the board amend the search guidelines so Gee could be retained in a full-time position.

Board Chairman James Dailey said he asked Gee if he would be open to staying despite having obligations at Ohio State University and Harvard.

"I reached out to him and asked him if he would be interested," Dailey said. "He got back to me and said he would love to."

Dailey said the university re-energized Gee, who is 70. He said Gee has campaigned and promoted WVU across the state during the interim period.

"Every place he turned, he was promoting the university," Dailey said. "I kept getting phone calls from people saying we have one of the best university presidents in the country."

In 2010, during his second stint as OSU president, Time Magazine rated Gee one of the top 10 college presidents in the country.

Dailey said keeping Gee was a no-brainer.

"When you have a superstar in your presence, and he is willing to step in and help you, why not keep him?" he said.

Now that the board has approved Gee, the next step will be to negotiate a contract. Gee's interim contract, which pays him a state-funded salary of $450,000, will remain in place until a new, two-year contract (the maximum under state statute) is drawn.

Dailey said the finer details of the contract would be figured out this week so the Higher Education Policy Commission can approve it.

WVU paid Clements $775,000 during his last year. It is undetermined if Gee will be paid the same amount or closer to the $1.9 million he earned in 2011 with OSU. That year, Gee was the highest paid university president in the country.

Dailey said WVU's statewide health care system, law school and research schools make it unlike many universities. He said it will take dedication to keep WVU on the same path and that Gee's energy and enthusiasm are reasons why the board feels comfortable putting the university in his hands.

"He obviously has experience," Dailey said. "I think it's a win-win situation for our university."

Gee also was president of the University of Colorado from 1985 to 1990, Brown University  from 1998 to 2000 and Vanderbilt University  from 2000 to 2007.

Contact writer Samuel Speciale at sam.speciale@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4886. Follow him at twitter.com/wvschools.

 


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