Today is Presidents Day. I would have probably forgotten all about it if my children didn’t have the day off from school, the mail didn’t show up, and the sales circulars didn’t tout Presidents Day Specials. While some may use this day to reflect on our lineup of U.S. presidents, I started to think about Ohio State’s presidents, especially President Gee.
I already have one degree with President Gee’s signature upon it, and I’m looking forward to earning another one next June. While many students may have more than one degree with his signature, mine will span both of his tenures.
As an undergraduate student in the early ’90s, I had a student position in the Office of Academic Affairs in Bricker Hall. There was only one step closer to the center of the university, and that was next door in President Gee’s office. Each day as I walked up the staircase I would peek around to see if he was in the building. I’d like to say he walked into the copy room one day and started chatting me up about classes. That never happened. I’m sure he was much too busy to be lurking around for students to make copies with. I did, however, get to assist Dr. Sisson, who became the interim president after Dr. Gee left us for the Ivy league. Like most students at the time, I was sad to see Gee go, and I never expected that he would return. After a couple of less-dynamic presidents (Kerwin and Holbrook), Gee returned to his beloved Buckeyes, and we welcomed him warmly.
What is it about this president that makes him so likable? I think he straddles the line of being an academics’ academic while having enough humor and character to interact with students on a personal level. There is little doubt that he is an advocate for Ohio State. Through the years Dr. Gee has helped transform Ohio State into a Center of Excellence, able to compete with the best that American education has to offer. It’s fair to say that he is to the university what Jack Hanna is to the Columbus Zoo: the public face of an organization that is made better with his presence.
Our campus is sprinkled with buildings named after the great presidents (Enarson Hall, William Oxley Thompson Library, Orton Hall, The Fawcett Center, among others), and I have no doubt that Gee’s name will be on a building one day. For now, though, I’m glad we still have the bow-tied one among us. Happy Presidents Day, Dr. Gee!