MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The hunt for a new president of West Virginia University took an abrupt turn Friday when the search committee recommended the Board of Governors hire interim E. Gordon Gee for the position permanently.
Gee, who served as university president from 1981-85, took over as interim president last year after Jim Clements left to become president at Clemson.
The search committee, which considered more than 30 applicants,emerged from Friday’s two-hour executive session and approved a motion paving the way for Gee to get the job.
The motion called on the BOG to “take all necessary steps, including any necessary approval by the Higher Education Policy Commission, to move forward in consideration of current president-for-a-term E. Gordon Gee as the permanent president of West Virginia University.’
The Board of Governors has now scheduled an emergency meeting for Monday at 9 a.m.
First, the board must rescind a motion from November that prohibits the interim president from being a candidate for the permanent position. Then the BOG must approve the hiring of Gee, which is viewed as a procedural step with board members unlikely to override the wishes of the search committee.
Gee had considerable support on the search committee, though it was not unanimous. In a conference call vote, it appeared 16 of the 20 members voted for Gee, two opposed (Susan Brewer and Matt Valenti) and two apparently dropped off the call and were unable to vote (Elizabeth Dooley and Cynthia Roth).
Jim Dailey, chair of the search committee and the BOG, strongly supported Gee.
“Gordon Gee is absolutely, hands-down the very best person to be at the helm of West Virginia University at this important time in our history,” Dailey said in a prepared statement. “I know we recruited him to serve until a permanent leader was in place and said the interim president would not be a candidate for the permanent presidency, but the search committee had a change of heart.”
The motion approved by the committee calls on the BOG to enter into a contract with Gee to make him the president of West Virginia University.
Gee said he was honored, energized and humbled by the committee’s recommendation.
“My return to West Virginia has reminded me of the special spirit of this university and the unique role it plays in the state,” Gee said in a prepared statement. “I am also reminded of the warmth and friendship of the people of West Virginia which have been demonstrated over the past few months in full measure.”