Gordon Gee, the bowtie wearing President of The Ohio State University, has announced his pending retirement.
Don’t get me wrong, Dr. Gee has a brutal schedule and if he’d rather spend his days playing golf and sipping a lemonade in a rocking chair on his front porch, I don’t blame him. But this didn’t come about because he’s tired. It came about because he’s authentic, innovative and speaks his mind.
In the fall of 2009 a Time Magazine article identified Gee as the best college president in the country.
He’s the one that when asked if he would fire Football Coach Jim Tressel responded “I just hope he doesn’t fire me.” The latest gaffe came in discussing negotiations with Notre Dame when he made some politically incorrect but clearly light-hearted comments about the priest running the Irish Athletic Department. At a Dec. 5 meeting, Gee said Notre Dame was never invited to join the Big Ten conference because “you just can’t trust those damn Catholics.”
Should he have said what he said about the Catholics? No.
But is the University better served with a great President who says something really stupid once a year or by a very average president who is more media savvy?
You can probably figure out my stand on this.
We face this is in our churches, too. We ask our clergy to be experts in preaching, teaching, fund-raising, administration, counseling, hospital visits, raising our kids, straightening out our youth, setting up Fellowship Hall and knowing how to smack the boiler to get it back on track.
By the way, they learn precious few of these skills in seminary, but that’s a sermon for another day.
It’s easy for us to complain that the pastor is a lousy preacher and we should get rid of her, ignoring her incredible gifts in the other areas. And the reality is that across a congregation there are those whose top priority is preaching and for others they are more concerned about balancing the budget or teaching Sunday School.
We need to remember this with our lay leadership as well. Can we overlook a gruff committee chair who does an amazing job with his work area’s tasks? Sure the mission trip chair can make everyone crazy with a lack of organization but her vision and passion make the trip a rousing success every year.
I’m disappointed that the OSU Board isn’t willing to see the good that Dr. Gee does far outweighs his occasional case of foot in mouth disease. I hope our churches can do better.