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Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee said this afternoon that he plans to retire on July 1, following the latest in a series of verbal gaffes that he said were meant as harmless jokes but ended up embarrassing the university.

The two-time Ohio State president will make his announcement this afternoon in an email to students, faculty and staff.

“Without question, the university has achieved remarkable success, and it has been my honor and calling to lead it,” Gee’s email says. “Ohio State is well-positioned for the future. I love this university, and my relationship with it will continue.”

Gee, 69, has served as Ohio State’s president for two terms, from 1990 to 97 and 2007 to now.

OSU’s former Provost Joseph A. Alutto has agreed to serve as interim president until the Ohio State board of trustees can find a replacement. Alutto previously served as interim president in 2007. Late last month the Columbus Board of Education met privately to discuss hiring Alutto to become acting superintendent, replacing Gene Harris at the end of next month.

Gee’s total annual compensation is a little more than $2.1 million. In 2012, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, he was the third highest-paid university leader in the nation. In prior years, he was the top earner.After a week of apologizing to people he offended with jokes bout Catholics, other universities and a rival athletic conference, Gee announced yesterday that he was backing out of giving Saturday’s commencement speech at St. Francis DeSales, a Catholic high school on the North Side on Monday

OSU spokeswoman Gayle Saunders said “he really wants to ensure that the appropriate focus was kept on the young people who are graduating,” and presumably not him.

Last week Gee apologized to the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors and several others for making the hurtful remarks at a December meeting of the Ohio State Athletics Council.

During the meeting, he referred to “those damn Catholics” and joked that priests at Notre Dame are holy on Sunday but “holy hell” the rest of the week. He also suggested that the University of Louisville has poor academic integrity and that those in the Southeastern Conference can’t read or write. He also took jabs at schools, such as the University of Cincinnati, that he said are unworthy of joining the Big Ten.

After Gee’s December comments, Ohio State trustees met in private on January 31 and March 8 to discuss a remediation plan that directs Gee to scale back on his public speeches. The board also said the university should hire a “coach” to help Gee do his job, an interesting proposition considering that Gee accepted an award from the American Council on Education in March for his years of dedication as a mentor and coach for several prospective future college leaders.

University officials say the board never took any public action at either of the meetings, but two days after the last one, two trustees sent Gee a letter outlining the plan. In a statement last week, OSU board chairman Robert H. Schottenstein said “the board took swift action” and “has met with President Gee at length to discuss the ramifications of his statements and develop a plan that addresses these missteps.”

But this past Monday, OSU spokeswoman Gayle Sauders said “the conversations between members of the board and President Gee, as well as specific details regarding the president’s progress on his remediation plan, are private personnel matters.” She declined to say why the university believes the information is private.

Throughout his apologies, Gee has maintained that the comments were meant to break the tension and were a “poor attempt at humor” that ended up having the opposite effect.

In a news release this afternoon, Gee said “I recently returned from a vacation with my family, during which time I had a chance to consider the university’s phenomenal achievements and the road that lies ahead for it.”

He said the university has a richness of new opportunities that most universities would envy.

“During my days away, I also spent some time in self-reflection. And after much deliberation, I have decided it is now time for me to turn over the reigns of leadership to allow the seeds that we have planted to grow,” he said. “It is also time for me to reenergize and refocus myself.”

Trustees called Gee an extraordinary leader who has raised Ohio State’s profile and enhanced the university’s academic profile by making it a highly-selective, top-tier research institution.

“By any measure, Gordon has been a transformational leader for Ohio State. His service to Ohio State has been superb. This man has been an inspiration to many people, including me, and we all are forever grateful for his friendship, board chairman Robert H. Schottenstein said.

Schottenstein said he met with Gee about his decision this morning.

“As we go forward, the University Board will work in close partnership with Dr. Gee and Dr. Alutto through this period to continue the tremendous success and growth we have seen under his leadership.”

Gee has led more colleges — West Virginia, the University of Colorado, Ohio State, Brown and Vanderbilt — than any other university president in the United States. SOURCE

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