The New York Times Does a Q&A with E. Gordon Gee

By D.J. Byrnes on February 7, 2014 at 10:04 pm
Andrew Spear of the New York Times

E. Gordon Gee is currently the President of West Virginia University. As sickening as it is to picture Gee in those colors, it's not as if the old gipper is gone or forgotten forever. 

The New York Times recently sat down with the controversial, millionaire septuagenarian:

Q. What does it take to be a good college president?

You have to have a real sense about quality and values and pace and purpose, and believe in what you’re doing and value the people you work with. And your personality needs three primary ingredients: You have to have a very thick skin, a good sense of humor and nerves like sewer pipes — cast iron, because in today’s environment, like in politics, as soon as you make a decision you get battered in the blogosphere.

Q. While most college presidents come across as measured, even bland, you’re seen as quirky and outspoken.

The world we live in right now finds us seeking presidents who’ve offended the least people. Most presidents usually answer questions with “yes” or “maybe.” The word “no” is not used enough. The real mistake is not making a decision, not saying what you think.

Q. When you were president of Vanderbilt, you took heat for saying you were going to recruit Jewish students. Would you do it differently now?

I’d probably be a little less explicit. I wanted to change the culture, and the view of the university as the Harvard of the South, to make it a national university, which we couldn’t do without focusing on a wider range of students. And it worked. The percent of Jewish students when I came was 2 percent, and when I left it was 22 percent.

In Gee's world, "getting battered by the blogosphere" is slang for "laughing all the way to the bank." 

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