Archive for June, 2013

Gordon-Gee-Ohio-State-2009-304Gordon Gee, President of Ohio State University, announced his retirement at age 69 after making a series of ‘humorous’ gaffs at the expense of  Roman Catholic priests, Notre Dame, the academic quality of schools in the Southeastern Conference, and the academic integrity of the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky.   Clearly, there is no excuse for Gee’s weak attempts at humor and his resignation is in order.

It was noteworthy, however, that as recently as 2010, Time Magazine selected Gee as the top university president in the United States.  I have spent the past couple of days reading about Gee.   Here are some of my leadership findings:

1) “Being president of a major public university is the most political nonpolitical office around.  We’re campaigning on behalf of our mission.”  University leaders must make a point of being visible with their stakeholders.   Connect with your audience.   Clearly state the university’s mission.  Be enthusiastic.

2) Most university presidents are focused on internal issues — the tug-of-war among faculty, students and alums — and they don’t have the bandwidth to see how extensive their influence should be.”   University leaders must expand their influence.   The university is a force for positive change.

3)  No elected official more carefully orchestrates a calendar. A typical planning session finds Gee hatching plans to stroke every conceivable constituency in the course of a single week.   Carefully plan your calendar.  Maximize your interaction with stakeholders.

4) We make no apologies for working to ensure that our graduates have the skills needed to thrive. Learning to think critically need not conflict with learning to work productively.”    Stand up for what you believe in.   Offer the win/win.

5) “Through it all, one thing was abundantly clear to me. At this moment, we at Ohio State have great privilege, great responsibility, and great opportunity. I will explain each of those in turn.”      I believe that any university leader must express its mission and values through the lens of privilege, responsibility and opportunity.   Sign me up.

Perhaps Gordon Gee’s tenure as university president is over.   He served as president of West Virginia University, University of Colorado, Brown University, Vanderbilt University and Ohio State University (twice).   On one hand, there is much to learn about university leadership from this man.  On the other hand, there is a cautionary tale here about one’s ego.

Be bold.   Have a grand vision.   Think with precision.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe


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