My long-winded, unedited, hastily thrown-together thoughts on Gordon Gee...
Since the announcement of Gordon Gee's impending departure, I've seen countless comments on the topic throughout social media. Fitting, in a way, as it was often the e-court of public opinion that sentenced him to labels I felt were unwarranted. Throughout my defense of Gee since last week, I've been asked if my fondness for him is simply because I'm a Buckeye. I'll get to that in a minute.
While a decent amount of the social media commentary was meant to bash the man (your "Gee is a douchebag" tweets were beyond scholarly, by the way, so thank you for those), I saw countless people sharing their personal stories of interaction with Ohio State's fearless leader, and I wanted to share one of mine.
I had the privilege of attending OSU for two years during Gee's second term, and in that brief period had more Gordon Gee stories than I should tell in one post. The man showed up to events, graduations, house parties, flash mobs... everything. On one of the largest university campuses in existence, the man was seemingly everywhere. The particular story I've chosen to share isn't the most fun, but the one I felt was most relevant to coverage of the current events, and one that can not be told by a "journalist" who wants to simply get page views from some lazy bow-tie and foot-in-mouth jokes.
It was 2008 and I was in the second year of my MBA program, one which afforded me opportunities to hear from quite a few incredibly impressive leaders, and Gordon Gee came to speak to one of my classes. I'd be lying if I told you I remember the exact reason for the talk, though there is one part I will never forget.
In a room full of MBA students and faculty, Dr. Gee, as he seems to do, went off on a tangent, talking about regret and appreciating the most important things in life, which unintentionally led him down an unexpected road. The subject of family came up, merely months (if that, to be honest) following a car accident which tragically killed his 31 year old son-in-law and left his daughter severely injured. He'd said before that his daughter's husband was like the son he never had. In fact, it was Dr. Gee who years earlier would encourage the young Vanderbilt med student to meet his daughter that he would eventually marry.
While Dr. Gee didn't tell us about or elaborate on the situation, he was visibly choked up, and we all knew why. I couldn't imagine how heartbroken a man that was widowed himself at a young age was by the thought of his daughter going through the same pain he suffered, on top of the rehabilitation process she was still going through.
I can guarantee that he didn't intend to cry when he walked into that classroom that morning, but he did nonetheless, because Gordon Gee just is who he is, and you may not understand it if you've never met him, but he's a man who is real and unfiltered in a world that is starting to condemn that more and more with each passing day. He apologized to us for his unexpected flood of emotion, not because Twitter or the BOT made him do it, but because he felt as if he may have made us uncomfortable. Because Gordon Gee is a man that doesn't intend for his words to do anything to others but make them laugh, inspire them, educate them, get to know them, or... heck, get them to believe in Ohio State and it's mission enough to open up their checkbook.
So, did I rush to Gee's defense over the past few days because I'm a Buckeye? I suppose. But only because if I wasn't a Buckeye, the only things I would've known about the man would be his gaffes, stripped of context, tone of voice, and facial expressions which would convey someone's true intentions. But the internet isn't a place for such nonsense, nonsense that can convey what a person is really all about, in any given moment, but more importantly as a human being, something the internet may have made some forget that Dr. Gee actually is at the end of the day.
If I wasn't a Buckeye, I probably would think it'd be more appropriate for a university to have a president that's robotic and never tells bad jokes that suddenly cause an outrage simply because of the title of the man saying them. But as a Buckeye... man, was I grateful that he wasn't a robot. The only thing robotic about Gee? The fact that he was a fundraising machine (and, well, his dancing could use some work). If you want to see a list of his mind-boggling accomplishments, a simple Google search will provide you one, but his resume isn't even the most impressive thing about him. It's that he's real (hackneyed, sometimes-offensive jokes and all) in a world that I'm learning wants its university presidents to come from a mold.
I'll let the Toledo Blade step in for a second, as they articulate it better than I ever could. "When Mr. Gee gets in trouble, it is because he is unguarded, often refreshingly so, in our uptight, politically correct age. His comments are sometimes silly, but they come from candor, not the arrogance of power."
Dr. Gee broke the mold, mostly for better, sometimes for worse. And if anyone really was offended, he'd be the first to feel bad about that. (But---- were you *really* offended?)
In the end, Dr. Gordon Gee got what he had coming to him... a break from the tireless work he put in to making Ohio State what it is today (seriously, Google is your friend if you want to know about the impact he had), and the ability to finally be who he is without the self-righteous judgment of the likes of Rick Pitino and Matt Hayes.
From one unfiltered Buckeye to another, thank you Dr. Gee. I'm proud to have known you, and to have your signature on my diploma. I wish you all the relaxation, and time with the most important things in life, that you deserve.