Gordon Gee Seeks New Role With Ohio State

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Ohio State University President Gordon Gee speaks at a press conference announcing his retirement while Robert H. Schottenstein, chair of the OSU Board of Trustees looks on.(Photo: WOSU/Nick Houser)
Ohio State University President Gordon Gee speaks at a press conference announcing his retirement while Robert H. Schottenstein, chair of the OSU Board of Trustees looks on.(Photo: WOSU/Nick Houser)

Ohio State president Gordon Gee will retire from his leadership role at the end of the month. Gee plans to remain a prominent fixture on campus.

“I am leaving the presidency; I am not leaving the university.”

Gee told a room of reporters this morning he expects to maintain an “active” role furthering Ohio State’s agenda, be it academics, research or fundraising.

“I will just not be on the day-to-day firing line,” Gee said. “And to me, that gives me the joy of doing the things I really feel most passionately about: continuing to be engaged with students in a variety of way and continuing to do other kinds of things. This is not a funeral. This is a new phase in my life.”

The new phase of his life could include a teaching job at the Moritz College of Law. But Gee said his loved ones will take center stage in retirement.

“I’m a grandfather now. I have three older grandchildren, and then I have two identical twin granddaughters.”

Gee, who has helped raise more than $1.6 billion for the university during the past six years, said the institution is at a good place for someone else to take the reins. In the interim that will be Provost Joseph Alutto.

While Gee noted his health is good, he confessed he’s slower. And that is something Gee, who’s pushing 70, admitted he’s struggled to accept.

“I run the university as if I were 36 years old…I don’t want to be the president of a university and run it like a 69-year old,” he said. “I want to run it in a way that I can run full tilt, and I don’t want to ever lose a step. And so I’m not leaving because of that. But I’ve started to feel like those are legitimate issues that I’ve had to deal with.”

While Gee placed heavy emphasis on personal time for his retirement, he admitted his most recent gaffes prompted him to take a more serious look at stepping down.

“It played that role, but not a defining role in terms of my own conversation with myself.”

Ohio State board of trustees reprimanded Gee for his disparaging comments about Catholics and the Southeastern Conference. And when asked whether the board pressured him to retire, Gee did not get a chance to answer. Board chair Robert Schottenstein chimed in.

“This was his decision,” Schottenstein said. “This is about honoring and respecting a decision to retire after an extraordinary commitment by this man to give his life to higher education.”

In April, Gee said there were still initiatives he wanted to finish. But today, he hinted there wasn’t enough time. Perhaps more could have been completed if his comments were not made public last week, but even Gee said he could not speculate.

“Well, you know, I don’t know how to answer that question. I have been thinking about this for a time…I’m not a victory lap guy, you know. I have had more transition than anyone else in America. And the last thing I want to do is be queen for a day,” Gee said. “I want move on. I want the university to move on. And I want to be able to do what I do at the university next in a way that really makes sense to me.”

And for Gee, he said taking a step back makes sense. He joked he never leaves quietly. For those by whom he is beloved, Gee’s iconic stature will remain part of the institution he helped catapult to the forefront of higher education. A legacy marked with unprecedented fundraising, smart bow ties and even a few blemishes.

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