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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended June 04, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 02Jun00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Brown U Recovers From Departure of its LDS President
BrownU Daily Herald 29May00 P2
By Shannon Tan: Herald Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND -- Three months after the abrupt resignation of Brown University's LDS President Gordon Gee, the University is recovering nicely, although Gee's reputation on the campus is not. Gee, who was an unusual choice for Brown's president according to the Brown Daily Herald, served as President for just 25 months, the shortest tenure of any president in Brown's 236-year history.

In his previous presidency, at Ohio State, Gee was so beloved that when word of his impending departure got out, a group of students, wearing T-shirts that plead "55,000 Students Need You," linked arms in front of his parking space and sang OSU's alma mater. In contrast, two days following the announcement that Gee would leave Brown to become Vanderbuilt's Chancellor, students at Brown held an "anti-Gee party."

According to the Daily Herald, Gee tried hard to connect with Brown's administrators, faculty and students. But faculty worried that his credentials were more professional than academic (Gee has doctorates in law and education) and students seemed to expect that he would be more like his predecessor, beloved Brown University President Vartan Gregorian.

Gee tried hard to reach the students by setting a goal of having every Brown student over to his house. He visited an English class to share the story of his late wife's battle with cancer, and he even decided to forgo a formal inauguration ceremony, saving the University $150,000, which he put towards financial aid and library funding. And these efforts seemed to be working, raising his approval rating among students to 56%.

But many still criticized Gee's projects, such as his plan for an $80 million life sciences building, which was criticized because it 'neglected' the humanities, and his attempt to simplify the University's administrative structure, which they claimed actually made the administration more complicated. Even Dean of the College Nancy Dunbar admits, "We're not an easy place to come into," and adds, "Maybe we can rethink the way we welcome a new president."

But while the University community was graudually accepting Gee, he was courted by Vanderbuilt, who had extended tenure to his wife, Constance, at Vanderbuilt's college of education. Vanderbuilt then put together a package for the couple of about $1 million. Brown Chancellor Stephen Robert decided not to make a counter-offer, and Gee decided to leave.

In leaving, Gee explained that Brown wasn't the right "fit" for him or the University, which he said lead to the criticism of his administration. But again critics said that the real reason was the financial package, and his wife's tenure at Vanderbuilt.

Now Brown has moved on. Two days following Gee's announcement, Sheila Blumstein was appointed interim President, and the University continues to fill major administrative openings, such as the Dean of Faculty, Dean of College and Associate Dean of College.

And one administrator, Provost Kathryn Spoehr, says that the University is better for the experience, "We learned a lot about ourselves -- that we're stronger than one person," she said. "We found out that we had resources within ourselves to do the things we needed to do."


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