Why not the best for West Virginia?
Meet the new boss, Morgantown. Same as the old boss. That's because E. Gordon Gee is back as president of West Virginia University as the school's Board of Regents voted to drop interim from his title.
At 70, Gee has completed the circle. WVU launched his career as a university administrator when it hired him as dean of the law school in 1979, promoting him to president in 1981. Four years later, he left for the University of Colorado, Ohio State, Brown, Vanderbilt and Ohio State again. Mothballed to the John Glenn School of Public Affairs after making a couple of insensitive jokes about Notre Dame and the valor of the Polish Army, Gee was available to fill in when WVU President Jim Clements headed for Clemson.
Gee returns to a land-grant university that has grown. The seeds he sowed more than 30 years ago have taken hold, as well as the seeds planted by his successors. WVU has campuses across the state, including WVU-Tech in Montgomery. The main campus had 29,466 students — 22,757 undergraduate, 5,077 graduate, and 1,632 professional students — when the school year began in the fall.
It's not only the flagship university of the state but an international university as well with 49 percent of its students hailing from the Mountain State with the rest coming from the other 49 states and 113 nations.
Morgantown has changed for the better, growing as the university has. BizJournals.com named it the No. 1 small city in America, Business Insider called it the No. 9 college town in America, and Kiplinger listed it as one of the 10 great places to live.
The town is improving. WVU razed 39 buildings in Sunnyside to build much needed housing for more than 1,500 students.
There are challenges. An increase in Medicaid spending and other increases in state budget items next year means 7.5 percent budget cuts for most other state agencies. However, only $200 million or so of the school's $950 million budget this year comes from state taxpayers.
Gee brings to the campus experience as a college administrator and fund-raiser, and a knowledge of the school and the state. He is one of the best college presidents in America.
More importantly, Gee brings an enthusiasm for education, for the school and for the students. This is a great fit.