Gee’s retirement comes on the heels of some ill-advised comments about Catholics that were intended as humor but struck many people as disparaging. Gee insists that he is not retiring because of the comments, but rather because of his age and the University’s need for long-term planning. Whatever the real reason might be, it’s clear that Gee’s jibes about Catholics — and some of the other curious comments he has made in recent years — have not been well-received by some members of the University community. His most recent remarks were criticized by the President of the Board of Trustees and he was put on a remediation plan that sought to change his behavior.
Gee, 69, served twice as the University’s President. My guess is that most people believe that — gaffes notwithstanding — he has left the University stronger and better positioned than it was when he first took office. He has been a tireless fundraiser, and with his bow tie and constant public appearances he became something of a celebrity. Speaking as an OSU alum, I wish President Gee well, but I’m also interested in seeing who will be hired to replace him and whether they might take a different approach to what is a very big job. In Ohio, the President of The Ohio State University can and should be a very significant and influential figure in the statewide community, and it will be a huge challenge to find and hire the right person for a very important position.