College Guide


June 05, 2013 12:32 PM Gordon Gee: From Best President to Ex-president

By Daniel Luzer


Ohio State University President Gordon Gee, the academic administrator Time magazine recently named America’s best college president, has abruptly retired.

This comes after a very awkward incident in which Gee, meeting with Ohio State’s athletic council, joked that Notre Dame wasn’t invited to be a member of the Big Ten because the university’s priests “are not good partners.” According to an Associated Press piece at ESPN:

“The fathers are holy on Sunday, and they’re holy hell on the rest of the week,” Gee said to laughter at the Dec. 5 meeting attended by athletic director Gene Smith and several other athletic department members, along with professors and students.
“You just can’t trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday, and so, literally, I can say that,” said Gee, a Mormon.

In fact the Big Ten had been trying to add Notre Dame for years, but “those damn Catholics” just kept resisting.

The Associated Press discovered a recording of the meeting and published a story about it last week.

Gee announced his retirement yesterday, saying that, “this isn’t about those statements. I have apologized for those remarks and feel incredibly sorry, but I have moved on.” Notre Dame has accepted the apology.

Ultimately this is probably a little ridiculous. His joke isn’t really offensive in any serious sense, but Gee doesn’t have the speech protections enjoyed by tenured professors at Ohio State. Gee, who’s notable for his fundraising abilities, served at the pleasure of the school’s board of trustees.

His retirement will be effective July 1. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer


  • Rich on June 05, 2013 6:33 PM:

    Fittingly, perhaps, the Time article provides no concrete basis for thinking Gee was a good university president. They do, however, quote a trustee's ridiculous characterization of the University as a major research university, an area where it trails other Big 10 schools. he seems like the kind of overpaid gasbag who probably shouldn't have levers of power at his disposal.

  • DJ on June 05, 2013 6:59 PM:

    Gee's comments about Catholics in general were stupid. What made his comments about Notre Dame offensive to them was his specific reference to the late Rev. Edmund Joyce, the school's former Executive Vice President, who was in charge of the athletic department. Joyce was almost universally regarded as a man of integrity, and Gee's linking of Father Joyce with Notre Dame not being a "good partner" for the Big Ten was insulting.

    Moreover, his remarks were sloppily inaccurate. By the time Gee first became president of Ohio State in 1990 -- presumably the first time he was involved in the negotiations between the Big Ten and Notre Dame -- Father Joyce had been retired for three years. Perhaps to Gee, all men in black suits and Roman collars are the same.

  • Sisyphus on June 06, 2013 9:22 AM:

    Gee's being "retired" too late. He's already done irreparable damage to OSU. First, there's the fact that he's constantly poor-mouthing to his staff and faculty about why he can't give them a raise (nor can he lower tuition, which has risen astronomically), while being paid more than any other university president. Secondly, he sold off the University's parking in a very quiet, back-room sort of way to a company that at least one member of the Board of Trustees has ties to. Finally, he's started to open the door to the privatization of the Lantern, the student newspaper, by basically selling off the business management part to Gannett.

    Gee's fundraising was always about getting buildings built to cement his legacy, and not about getting a better or more affordable education for students, or for improving the working conditions for his staff.