Fans of Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee needn’t worry that he’ll be banished to obscurity or plunged into poverty.
An examination of Gee’s employment contract indicates the 69-year-old Gee will be:
- Granted tenure at the Moritz College of Law and the College of Education and Human Ecology;
- Given the title “president emeritus”;
- Provided a secretary and an office for five years; and
- Paid “an appropriate stipend.”
Details of his severance package have yet to be worked out, according to OSU Board of Trustees Chairman Robert Schottenstein. Trustees made Gee one of the top highest paid public university presidents in the country so the stipend could be substantial.
But Gee will also likely have to start paying for his own housing and cover his utility bills — a first for him since at least 1990. He presumably no longer will have use of a university-provided car.
Gee had four years remaining on a contract that pays him $2.1 million. When he leaves July 1, he will have to move out of the Pizzuti House, a 7,300-square-foot mansion with tennis courts and a pool in suburban Columbus that the OSU Foundation owns, maintains and staffs for the university president’s use.
Gee, who has led five universities including Ohio State twice, should be comfortable in his retirement.
He is in the State Teachers Retirement System, has a separate retirement account with Fidelity and signed a five-page supplemental executive retirement agreement that required the university to contribute $2.33 million in payments between 2009 and 2012. An additional $641,301 is due to be deposited June 30, the day before Gee retires.
Gee also has an extensive investment portfolio with more than 100 different holdings that earned more than $110,000 last year. He also sits on the board of directors for Bob Evans Farms, Grange Mutual Casualty Group and Limited Brands — posts that paid him an additional $284,561 last year.
Six years into a 10-year contract as president, Gee has been criticized in recent years for lavish spending, omission of $150,000 in travel expenses on his state ethics forms, an embarrassing scandal in the highly visible football program and multiple verbal missteps.
The last straw may have been Gee’s latest embarrassment when he made disparaging remarks about Catholics, priests at the University of Notre Dame, the academic quality of the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky and the reading and writing talents of students in the Southeastern Conference, which boasts schools such as Vanderbilt and Florida. His remarks, made Dec. 5 at OSU’s Athletic Council, became public last week but trustees learned of them in January and prescribed a remediation plan for Gee in March.
Trustees told him to lower his public profile, hire a communications coach and know that he might be fired if it happened again. An immediate retirement allows Gee to leave on his own terms rather than risk a messy dismissal if his penchant for off-the-cuff humor tripped him up again.
Gee said he made the decision after taking a Disney cruise and rocking his 7-month-old identical twin granddaughters on the ship deck. He also noted that he has a “significant other” in California.
Gee and Schottenstein insist that the decision to retire was Gee’s alone.
“No one is going to sit here and act as if Gordon at times didn’t make a mistake or two. But in context, that is a very small piece in his body of work. And I think everyone who knows him knows that,” Schottenstein said. “He should be judged by his body of work, which is overwhelming.”
He added, “The trustees are steadfast that this man has been an extraordinary president. Frankly, the best I’ve ever seen. And this was his decision.”
Schottenstein said the parameters of a search for Gee’s replacement will be discussed at this week’s trustees meetings.
Gee says he plans to remain engaged in the university, including in the multi-year campaign to raise $2.5 billion in donations.
“I am leaving the presidency. I am not leaving the university. I intend on being a very active participant,” Gee said Wednesday at a press conference to explain his decision to retire. “In fact, in many ways I can be a much more engaged fundraiser on behalf of the university in my new role because of the fact that I’ll have more time and I’ll have more ability to be able to spend time and legitimately doing those kinds of things. So, I will be fully engaged in furthering the agenda of the university. I just will not be on the day-to-day firing line.”
OSU Provost Joseph Alutto, who served as interim president in 2007 before Gee returned for his second stint as university chief executive, will serve as temporary president again.
Schottenstein, who attended the press conference with Gee and Alutto, said Gee’s new role has yet to be ironed out.
He said, “Gordon loves this university and this university loves him but he also knows that there can only be one president.”
Recent Gee accomplishments:
- Privatized the parking decks, lots and meters for 50 years in exchange for $483 million in cash up front.
- Issued a 100-year bond to capitalize on low interest rates.
- Created a foundation to commercialize university-developed technologies.
- Opened an office in Mumbai, India.
- Transitioned from quarters to semesters and adopted a plan to require sophomores to live on campus.
- Marked the most successful fundraising two-year period with $365 million in contributions and pledges.
- Kept the $1 billion medical center expansion project on time and on budget.
- Led a statewide higher education funding effort and served on the board of JobsOhio.
Source: Ohio State University media relations
For the past several year, our Columbus reporters have closely watched the spending by OSU President E. Gordon Gee, who is among the nation’s best-paid public university presidents. Last year, the newspaper detailed how Gee has spent more than $7.7 million since October 2007 on travel, housing, parties and entertainment. Go to mydaytondailynews.com for past stories, video from Wednesday’s press conference and more on Gee.