Last year, Gee apologized for saying that coordinating the school’s many divisions was like running the Polish army, a remark that a Polish-American group called bigoted.
In 1992, in a moment of frustration over higher-education funding, Gee referred to then-Gov. George Voinovich as ‘‘a damn dummy.’’
Gee was named the country’s best college president in 2010 by Time magazine. He has held the top job at West Virginia University, the University of Colorado, Brown and Vanderbilt. He was Ohio State president from 1990 to 1997 and returned in 2007. He makes about $1.9 million a year in base pay, retirement benefits and other compensation.
He is a prolific fundraiser and is leading a $2.5 billion campaign at Ohio State. He is omnipresent on campus, attending everything from faculty awards events to dormitory pizza parties.
‘‘I've never heard anyone say anything negative about him. He’s great,’’ Ohio State cheerleader Taylor Rudy, 20, a junior from Tipp City, said Tuesday. ‘‘I don’t feel like it'll be the same here. That’s so terrible.’’
The president of the American Council on Education said Gee, who is a board member, left an ‘‘indelible mark’’ on each institution he served.
‘‘He is an iconic leader, unparalleled in skills and widely respected among presidents, chancellors, policymakers and business leaders at both the state and federal levels,’’ ACE President Molly Corbett Broad said in a statement.
Associated Press Writers Julie Carr Smyth and Kantele Franko in Columbus, Thomas J. Sheeran in Cleveland and Tom Coyne in South Bend, Ind., contributed to this report. Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.