E. Gordon Gee, who served as Brown’s 17th president from 1998 to 2000, announced Tuesday that he will retire from his current position as president of Ohio State University July 1, multiple news outlets reported.
The news, first reported by the Columbus Dispatch, comes partially in response to a recent controversy after the Associated Press reported several potentially offensive comments Gee made at a meeting last December.
Among these comments, Gee said the University of Notre Dame was not offered a spot in the Big 10 athletic conference because “you just can’t trust those damn Catholics” and joked that students at schools in the Southeastern Conference could not write or read.
Gee issued an apology after the AP made his comments public last week, saying the remarks were “a poor attempt at humor and entirely inappropriate.”
Gee, 69, has been a widely popular president at Ohio State, which he led from 1990 to 1998 before returning in 2007. Gee was president of the University of Colorado and West Virginia University, as well as chancellor of Vanderbilt University. He was included in Time Magazine’s 2009 list of the 10 best college presidents.
Gee’s rocky tenure at Brown also came to a controversial end. After he unveiled an ambitious plan to bolster the sciences partially through bond sales, many members of the Brown community expressed worries that he did not focus enough on the arts and humanities and that he did not understand the University’s core mission.
His often unilateral leadership style was widely seen as a new direction for Brown, and Gee — the University’s only president since 1937 without a PhD — acknowledged at the end of his tenure that it was sometimes a difficult fit.
He attracted ire for his wife’s renovation of the president’s house, which was rumored to have cost $3 million.
Gee’s presidency remains the shortest in the University’s history.
Gee’s move to a higher-paid position at Vanderbilt left Brown in a nebulous financial and planning state and was met with significant indignation on College Hill, The Herald previously reported. According to campus lore, his only namesake at Brown is the E. Gordon Gee Lavatory Complex at Spring Weekend.
But Professor of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences Sheila Blumstein, who succeeded Gee as the University’s interim president from 2000 to 2001, highlighted a number of initiatives at Brown that started under Gee, including the Brown Institute for Brain Science, increased funding for the Graduate School, a redesigned Watson Institute for International Studies and the building of the Sidney E. Frank Hall for Life Sciences.
Gee was also an active presence in undergraduate life, sometimes bagging books at the Brown Bookstore and visiting student dorms, Blumstein said.
“He was only at Brown for a couple years, but in that time he did a number of things,” she said.
“Ohio State now has a richness of new opportunities that would be the envy of most universities,” Gee said in a statement released by Ohio State. “And after much deliberation, I have decided it is now time for me to turn over the reins of leadership to allow the seeds that we have planted to grow. It is also time for me to reenergize and refocus myself.”