Former Brown president Gordon Gee, the current president of Ohio State University, was named "The Big Man on Campus" among the top 10 college presidents by Time Magazine earlier this month.
Gee's tenure at Brown lasted only 25 months — he resigned abruptly in 2000 to take the position of Chancellor at Vanderbilt University, the school's top administrative post.
His path to "Big Man" status has been anything but average. A 2006 article in the Wall Street Journal described his "recurring pattern," which was to "disrupt the status quo, lift the university's image, raise a lot of money and leave for another job."
But Time described Gee as "campaigning for a revolution" to bring higher education to a new frontier, transforming the nation's universities into economic powerhouses of the future.
As the economy becomes increasingly knowledge- and service-based, universities have the potential to shape not only the future of research and economic development, but also the direction of public policy, according to the magazine.
"Being president of a major public university is the most political nonpolitical office around," Gee told the magazine. "We're campaigning on behalf of our mission."
The itinerant university president is also a well-compensated one. His total pay at Ohio State was $1.35 million in the fiscal year ending in June 2008, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education — the highest figure for any president of a public university in the United States.
And though his tenure at Brown was marked with controversy, Gee has been well-received by the students of Ohio State.
"If you invite him to any party, he'll be there," Sam McCoy, a junior at Ohio State, told The Herald. "You would be hard-pressed to find someone who didn't like him."