Brown stunned – Ivy chief leaving for Vanderbilt

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After just two years as president of Brown University, E. Gordon Gee made a surprise announcement that he would become the new chancellor at Vanderbilt University.

In the world of higher education, it is unusual for a college president to step down after such a short time.

Gee, 56, who has been president of three other universities, told The New York Times that based his decision on his “fit” with Vanderbilt and said he could have more of an impact at the Nashville research university, considered one of the South’s best.

However, the Times also reported that the package offered Gee by Vanderbilt would approach $1 million a year. The deal includes a tenured post for his wife, Constance Bumgarner Gee, an assistant professor of public policy at Brown. At Brown, Gee’s salary totaled about $300,000.

Vanderbilt, with about 10,000 students, is slightly larger than Brown, an Ivy League school in Providence, R.I., known for its undergraduate liberal arts program.

At a news conference in Nashville, Gee said the decision to leave Brown was difficult.

“Two years is just too short,” he told the Times, “and I admit that right up front. But every once in a while, the issue of fit, and the issue of passion and the issue of making a difference has to be calibrated into it.”

Brown Chancellor Steven Robert said Gee told him about the offer in mid-January and the university’s board of trustees decided “it would diminish our values to make a counteroffer.”

Robert said he told Gee that the contact with Vanderbilt “violated a commitment he had made publicly at Brown.”

Gee, who has written or co-written seven books, has served in prominent positions in higher education. He has been chairman of the Association of American Universities and chairman of the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land Grant Universities. He also has been president of West Virginia University, the University of Colorado and Ohio State University.

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