Dr. E. Gordon Gee is one of America’s most prominent higher education leaders, having served as president of some of the most prestigious public and private universities for more than three decades.
When he returned to lead West Virginia University in 2014 as the institution’s 24th president, it was a homecoming of sorts. He was first named WVU president in 1981 at age 36 – at the time, among the youngest persons to ever serve as a university president.
He led WVU until 1985 when he went on to presidencies at the University of Colorado (1985-90), Brown University (1998-2000) and Vanderbilt University (2001-07). He served as president of The Ohio State University from 1990-97 and again from 2007-13.
On his return to the Morgantown campus, he said, “This is not a job to me; it is a calling.” His leadership style bears that out as he works tirelessly to advance the University’s land-grant mission and open doors to the American dream.
In his latest address to the University community, he noted that for 150 years, the institution has been a polar star guiding West Virginians toward a brighter tomorrow. He said, “That is why, in this milestone year, we recommit our University to living the values that drive our work. Serving our students and our state is not just our duty — it is our passion.”
Gee has built a special relationship with the students as well as the state’s citizens, making it a point to visit students where they live, learn and socialize -- and visiting all 55 West Virginia counties during his inaugural year – and at least half in subsequent years.
Born in Vernal, Utah, Gee graduated from the University of Utah with an honors degree in history and earned his J.D. and Ed.D. degrees from Columbia University. He clerked under Chief Justice David T. Lewis of the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals before being named a judicial fellow and staff assistant to the U.S. Supreme Court. In this role, he worked for Chief Justice Warren Burger on administrative and legal problems of the Court and federal judiciary. Gee returned to Utah as an associate professor and associate dean in the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University, and was granted full professorship in 1978.
One year later, he became dean of the WVU College of Law, and, in 1981, was named WVU’s 19th president.
Gee has served on several education-governance organizations and committees, including the Big 12 Conference Council of Presidents, the Business Higher Education Forum and the American Association of Universities. He was chair of the American Council on Education’s Commission on Higher Education Attainment and served as co-chair of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities’ Energy Advisory Committee. In 2009, King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia invited him to join its international advisory board. In 2009, Time magazine named him one of the top 10 university presidents in the United States.
Gee is serving as chair of the Big 12 Board of Directors Executive Committee for the 2017-18 year. Active in many national professional and service organizations, he is on the executive committee of the National 4-H Council Board of Trustees and serves on the board of trustees of the Royal University for Women in Bahrain, with which WVU has a long-standing academic partnership. A recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, he is an executive board member of Boy Scouts of America. He has also served on the boards for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and Limited Brands.
In 2011, Gee began serving as secretary on the Board of Directors of Ohio’s economic development program, JobsOhio. In 2011-12, Governor John Kasich asked him to chair the Ohio Higher Education Capital Funding Collaborative and the Ohio Higher Education Funding Commission. In December 2012, he began serving on the Columbus Education Commission.
Gee has received many honorary degrees, awards, fellowships and recognitions. He is a fellow of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest science organization. In 1994, Gee received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Utah, as well as from Teachers College of Columbia University. In 2013, he received the ACE Council of Fellows/Fidelity Investments Mentor Award and the Outstanding Academic Leader of the Year Award on behalf of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He is the co-author of 11 books, including Law, Policy and Higher Education, published in 2012. He has also authored many papers and articles on law and education.
In the summer of 2016, Gee announced his engagement to Laurie Erickson, leader of the Erickson Foundation. Gee’s daughter, Rebekah, is Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health. In addition to that role, she is a practicing gynecologist and Gratis Faculty at the Louisiana State University School of Medicine and Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. Dr. Rebekah Gee is married to David Patrón and they have five children.
President E. Gordon Gee with his family — Front row from left: Nathan, Elly and Ben Patrón. Back row from left: Rebekah Gee, Eva Patrón, E. Gordon Gee, Elizabeth Patrón and David Patrón.