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Gee also came under fire a few years ago for some offhand remarks during a memorabilia-for-cash and tattoos scandal under football coach Jim Tressel’s watch. Gee was asked in 2011 whether he had considered firing Tressel. He responded: “No, are you kidding? Let me just be very clear: I’m just hopeful the coach doesn’t dismiss me.”

Last year, Gee apologized for saying that coordinating the school’s many divisions was like running the Polish army, a remark that a Polish-American group called bigoted.

In 1992, in a moment of frustration over higher-education funding, Gee referred to then-Gov. George Voinovich as “a damn dummy.”

Gee was named the country’s best college president in 2010 by Time magazine. He has held the top job at West Virginia University, the University of Colorado, Brown and Vanderbilt. He was Ohio State president from 1990 to 1997 and returned in 2007. He makes about $1.9 million a year in base pay, deferred and performance compensation and retirement benefits.

He is a prolific fundraiser and is leading a $2.5 billion campaign at Ohio State, one of the nation’s largest universities, with 65,000 students. He is omnipresent on campus, attending everything from faculty awards events to dormitory pizza parties.

Gov. John Kasich praised Gee on Tuesday as “a tremendous partner in transforming Ohio’s fragmented higher education system into one better focused on fueling Ohio’s economic recovery and helping students meet their goals.”