I bet a lot of college students would be surprised to see their university’s president out late on a Friday or Saturday night dropping by a bar or a house party, but the students at West Virginia University look forward to it.
Dr. E. Gordon Gee served as president of The Ohio State University (1990 to 1997 and 2007 to 2013), Vanderbilt University (2001-2007), Brown University (1998-2000), the University of Colorado (1985-1990), and West Virginia University (1981-1985). In January of 2014 Dr. Gee returned to WVU to serve as interim president and was confirmed as the permanent president two months later. In 2009 he was named by Time magazine as one of the Top 10 university presidents in the United States.
If you read his bio and CV you can see through his accomplishments why he is such an outstanding educator, but are his current students really all that aware of everything he has done? Do they care about his publications and all the positions he has held in higher education? My guess is, unless the students plan to develop a career in academia (most do not) then they probably don’t know and don’t care to know about all of his academic accomplishments. So then why is he seen as a celebrity at WVU?
Dr. Gee has always enjoyed spending time with and getting to know the students he serves. Without the students, his job and position within the university wouldn’t mean very much. As a former employee at the University I have seen firsthand how students (and potential students) view Dr. Gee as a type of local celebrity. He is extremely approachable and students love to talk to him and take pictures with him.
Also as part of his celebrity appeal, Dr. Gee has created a strong presence on social media as well. In addition to his Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, he is known for his increasingly popular countdown and engagement videos. This 71-year-old president knows how to reach out to his students, in person and through technology.