Appreciating (& defending) Gordon Gee
Gordon Gee's sudden announcement that he's retiring as president of Ohio State University isn't the product of another leader of an institution of higher learning running his mouth amok, as so many would have you believe, but of a society that takes itself far too seriously, takes offense far too easily and, frankly, is skill-bereft in the art of aural comprehension.
Dr. Gee, 69, will leave OSU's top post on July 1. He found himself in hot water, again, with a few statements that raised eyebrows among the self-anointed smart set who don't understand his wry sense of affectatious sardony.
Among those statements was one from a December 2012 meeting, in reference to why Notre Dame was not in the Big Ten athletic conference:
“Those fathers are holy on Sunday and they're holy hell on the rest of the week. You just can't trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday.”
Shocking? One “in a series of embarrassing gaffes,” as The New York Times put it? “Wholly unacceptable” and “not presidential in nature,” as Robert Schottenstein, chairman of the OSU board of trustees, characterized it? “Bigoted,” as still others have alleged?
Hardly. In fact, Gee's line, delivered as only he could have delivered it, could have been a line from Will Rogers, the beloved humorist of the early 20th century.
But for this statement and, one can only guess, an accumulation of others, OSU trustees ordered Gee into an Orwellian “remediation” program, professional help to get his personal communications skills up to snuff.
Talk about losing one's sense of context and perspective. Good grief, Gee even sparked outrage from the far too easily outraged when, in 2010, he said schools with weak schedules shouldn't be eligible for the Bowl Championship Series football title game, adding, “We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor.”
Nearly 30 years ago, as bureau chief for United Press International in Morgantown, I covered Gee, then one of the youngest university presidents in the nation, when he headed West Virginia University. Witticism trading was currency in those days, a pretty decent way to size up a person's intellectual wherewithal and a great way to determine if you could do business with someone.
To wit, before a meeting of some import in his conference room, spotting me, dressed in my usual attire of the day — a dress shirt, jeans and a pair of beaten Nike running shoes — he wrapped one arm around me and wryly quipped that Heck's (a then-popular discount store chain) must have been closed when I shopped for my outfit.
In a good-natured retort, I asked him if one of the legendary bow ties he was wearing that day spun.
“No, but it does squirt water,” he shot back, not missing a beat and breaking into a broad smile.
From that day forward, we could “do business.”
Back to Will Rogers.
“In the days of our founders, they were willing to give thanks for mighty little, for mighty little was all they expected,” he once said of Thanksgiving Day. “But (today) if we can't gather a new car, a new radio, a new tuxedo and some government relief, we feel like the world is agin' us.”
Had Gordon Gee said such a thing, he would have been run out of Columbus — with his bow tie collection thrown after him.
Colin McNickle is Trib Total Media's director of editorial pages (412-320-7836 or email@example.com).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers not limiting themselves in free agency
- Coyotes proliferate despite year-round hunting
- Rossi: Pirates must pay for Mr. Right
- Under Rutherford, it’s been a sizeable shakeup for Penguins
- Burnett’s farewell tour wishlist has just 1 item: Pirates World Series
- Big names become available this week via free agency; will Steelers be tempted?
- Pirates notebook: Infield prospect Hanson used to playing elders
- Winnik impresses Penguins in first workout
- Greensburg pair jailed in convenience store robbery
- Men become focus of stores’ personal service efforts
- Arnold settles health benefits lawsuit with former councilman