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 West Virginia University 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 one of his latest addresses 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 is past chair of the American Council on Education’s Commission on Higher Education Attainment and formerly 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 currently serving as chair of the Big 12 Board of Directors Executive Committee and is a member of Forward 50, an initiative working toward student equity, success and outcomes.
Last summer, working with Department of Commerce and Marshall University officials, he was instrumental in establishing the West Virginia Forward initiative to bring together state and local leaders in providing a blueprint for alignment and focus on solutions for a united and prosperous West Virginia. It quickly developed into a larger effort with policymakers, experts and government officials working together to formulate results-driven policy to help strengthen and diversify all regions of the state.
Active in many national professional and service organizations, he is on the executive committee of the National 4-H Council Board of Trustees as well as on the Board of Trustees of the Royal University for Women in Bahrain, with which West Virginia University 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 over the years. 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 over a dozen books, including his two most recent, “Leading Colleges and Universities” and “Land-Grant Universities for the Future.” He has also authored many papers and articles on law and education.