WEIRTON - West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee thinks the future can be very bright for education in West Virginia, and for the state itself, with the right investments and efforts.
Gee, the 24th president of the university, discussed a variety of topics with members of the Rotary Club of Weirton Wednesday during his trip through the area.
Gee noted while WVU was created as a "land-grant university" it has developed into a hybrid, providing traditional educational programs with research opportunities and its own business operations.
ROTARY?VISIT — E. Gordon Gee, president of West Virginia University, reads some correspondence from a university student Wednesday during his presentation to the Rotary Club of Weirton. Gee discussed some of his hopes for the future of education in West Virginia during the club’s meeting at Williams Country Club. -- Craig Howell
He noted WVU is always looking at ways to better serve its students and the state, and wants to find new ways to provide opportunities for education in West Virginia, develop cooperative efforts with other colleges and universities and encourage investments in higher education.
"It's about us creating an environment so students can get a great education," Gee said, joking that he would like to build a fence around West Virginia to keep all of its college students in the state, while occasionally opening the gate to welcome out-of-state students.
Gee also said he believes there still is a future for industries such as steel, coal and oil in West Virginia, but the state and its residents "must train ourselves to out-think in order to out-perform."
Gee said he doubts there is any other university in the nation with such an impact on its home state as WVU, noting the university's medical operations, businesses and the services it offers throughout the state via the WVU Extension offices.
He also touched on his decision to return to WVU, after tenures at Ohio State, Vanderbilt, Colorado and Brown, saying West Virginia gave him his first opportunity to lead a major university.
Gee, who is known to walk around the university campus and socialize with students, said it is the people that make West Virginia special.
"It's something that gets embedded in you," Gee said. "I'm not a West Virginian by birth. I'm a born-again West Virginian."