Respected university president or rock star? Both, it appeared, as Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee rolled into Stark State College on his tour bus and signed an articulation agreement between the two schools.
Only Gordon Gee could turn the signing of a formal articulation agreement into an Ohio State pep rally.
The university’s president arrived Tuesday at Stark State College with the kind of fanfare typically reserved for his football team.
Brutus Buckeye, a cheerleader and a team of student ambassadors from Ohio State set the stage for the arrival of Gee’s bus, leading the college’s faculty, staff, students, and invited guests to chants of “OH! IO!” and even a little wobble dance.
Gee, wearing his trademark red Ohio State bow tie, was greeted by Stark State President Para Jones in the Business and Entrepreneurial Center, where the paperwork was ceremoniously signed.
Under the agreement between the two schools, Stark State students who earn an associate of arts or associate of science degree and maintain a grade-point average of at least 2.0 are guaranteed admission to Ohio State University with junior standing.
A formal event such as this one is not typical, but fit in with Gee’s annual two-day tour of the state. As the chairman of Gov. John Kasich’s collaborative of university presidents who were charged with developing a capital improvement plan for higher education, Gee already was familiar with Stark State.
The collaborative awarded Stark State $10 million to create a downtown campus and energy center.
“Dr. Gee was very instrumental in (Stark State) receiving the $10 million,” said Jones before the event. “I went to Columbus to thank him, and I invited him to visit.” She said Gee is a good role model for all college presidents.
Before Gee was introduced by Dr. Michael Thomas, the chairman of the school’s board of trustees, Jones told the audience that Ohio State is the No. 4 college destination for Stark County students, so “this is a meaningful agreement,” she said.
She said the transfer agreement could save students 75 percent in tuition costs in their freshmen and sophomore years, then allow for a seamless transfer to the four-year university.
After signing the agreement, Gee said he was moved by the occasion.
“This document allows access to the American dream. This is a very serious moment. We value the relationships we have with our community colleges,” Gee said.
He told the audience that the agreement offers an opportunity to students who work hard, persist and move on.
“Without Stark State, Ohio State can’t exist. You are my front door, and for that, I am truly grateful,” said Gee.
Gee joked about his lengthy career as a college president and his tour of the state, saying, “Ohioans really love Ohio. Having been president of half the universities in this country, I can say that.”
The two presidents traded gifts at the end of Gee’s speech. Jones offered Buckeyes from London’s Candies and a Stark State football T-shirt that read, “Stark State College: Undefeated since 1960.”
Page 2 of 2 - Gee offered Jones an Ohio State scarf and told her, “Coach Meyer just buzzed me and said he’s anxious to schedule that football game with you.”