COLUMBUS Vanderbilt University Chancellor E. Gordon Gee is leaving the Nashville school to return to The Ohio State University as president.
In an e-mail sent to Vanderbilt faculty today, Mr. Gee confirms that he will replace Karen Holbrook as OSU president on Aug. 1. Ms. Holbrook retired on June 30.
This was by far the most difficult professional decision that I have ever made, wrote the 63-year-old Utah native. I want you to know that I am not leaving Vanderbilt. Rather, I am following my heart and returning to a place that I consider my home. My decision is that simple and that complex.
Ohio State spokesman Jim Lynch said he could not confirm Mr. Gee s return. The university s board of trustees is expected to make the announcement at its regularly scheduled meeting tomorrow.
In my book, we ve just won the NCAA National Championship of college presidents, said Ohio House Speaker Jon Husted (R., Kettering).
The search for Ms. Holbrook s replacement has gone on since she announced her retirement a year ago, and Mr. Gee had previously issued a public statement that he had no plans to leave Vanderbilt.
I was shocked, said Bruce Barry, chairman of Vanderbilt University s Faculty Senate and professor of management and sociology.
It didn t sound like he was dancing with Ohio State, although they were trying to pull him onto the dance floor, Mr. Barry said. His denials were convincing.
Mr. Gee was Ohio State president from 1990 to 1997, leaving first for Brown University and then Vanderbilt in 2000.
In the past, his skills, talents, and leadership helped to put OSU on the map, and I m tremendously pleased to hear that he will once again call himself a Buckeye, said Mr. Husted.
Mr. Barry said Mr. Gee s tenure at the school has been largely smooth sailing, and that he was surprised he would leave before some of what he has set in motion is completed.
As chancellor, his tenure was marked by an enormous amount of energy in rethinking pretty fundamental aspects of the university, he said. A lot of people at Vanderbilt who have been here longer than he has saw his tenure as an infusion of energy with concrete outcomes in buildings and new programs.
He brought an infusion of intellectual energy in terms of recruiting faculty, he added. It will be a real challenge for whoever follows him to live up to his example.
Vanderbilt received national attention when Mr. Gee took on Vanderbilt s athletic program, eliminating it as a separate entity and getting rid of the position of athletics director.
Many were cynical, but time has vindicated his move, said Mr. Barry. Athletics haven t folded. They ve done quite well.
"He has headed a major change in the undergraduate program with a whole new freshman campus nearing completion that is designed to specifically change the undergraduate experience at the university in the long run, Mr. Barry said. A lot of people will be surprised that he s leaving when a lot of that work is unfinished.
Contact Jim Provance at: email@example.com, or 614-221-0496.
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