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OSU's Next President, Gordon Gee, Takes Campus Tour

Ohio State University's newly named president Gordon Gee met with students Friday then took a walking tour to the Oval. There he got an update on renovations to the Main Library, an idea that got its start during his first administration.

A handful of faculty members waited for Gordon Gee outside the library, now just a fenced off shell of a building that's been closed for a year. English Professor Sebastian Knowles had pushed for the renovation during the 1990s.

"It was dingy, it was dark, in the evenings it was a dangerous place, your heart sank when you walked in, cause you said OSU is better than this space,'" Knowles said.

When Gee arrived he got an update on the $107 million project from libraries director Joseph Brannin.

"It looks like they're totally renovating it," Gee said.

" "Well they're maintaining the original 1913 building," Brannin said. "Everyone loved that building and that renaissance revival style. And then the tower built in 1950 also became an iconic structure here on campus. But we did tear down the 1975 addition."

"Which is that ugly thing in the back..."

"The brutalist 1960s style "

"Oh I remember that," Gee said. "And it felt brutal. Not only did it look brutal, it was brutal as a matter of fact."

Libraries and information technology are of particular interest to Gee who has written at least one book on the subject. Gee says a university cannot have a great faculty without a great library.

"Well it's long overdue," he said. "I'm glad it's here, I'm really glad it's here. Libraries are not only libraries but in many ways they're the intellectual and spiritual center of the university and it just didn't represent the quality of this institution as well as it should."

Sebastian Knowles says the renovated main library - due to reopen in 2009 - will be a vital part of Gee's vision of 'excellence to imminence' for Ohio State.

"You are stuck with a very nice set of facilities; a very nice athletics facility, a nice physics building," Knowles said. "But you don't have the imminence that I think Gordon Gee is looking for without a strong library."

Before moving on, Gee, in his characteristic personable manner, stopped to speak with his former colleague.

"Yeah, how are you doing? Sebastian was the guy who really started this whole thing. You must be really proud of this. You lobbied me from 1990 on. Finally someone got it right and I'll come back and take full credit for it!"

Gee resigns from his current position as president of Vanderbilt University in August.