SOUTHSIDE — Last year, West Virginia University President Dr. E. Gordon Gee visited with WVU Extension personnel and even Mothman on Main Street in Point Pleasant, but this year, he had a younger, even greener audience.
On Thursday, Gee stopped at both the Bob’s Market and Greenhouses facility in Mason and the 4H camp in Southside.
Gee is known for visiting each county in the state his institutions have served and West Virginia is no different. Last summer, during his first term as president, he and his staff visited all 55 counties.
This summer, he’s back.
“Last year, I was learning the state again and had been gone for 30 or 35 years,” Gee said. “I intend on being in half the counties every summer. I think the first time it’s a novelty for everyone when the university president shows up. The second time, they start to learn you’re serious and by the third time or fourth time, they may not want me to show up anymore,” he joked. “It’s (the annual tour) a way for me to really understand what’s going on in the state and how I can best do my work on behalf of the citizens of the state and, more importantly, how the university can be effective in its responsibilities as a major land-grant institution.”
Prior to visiting with 4H campers, Gee toured Bob’s Market and Greenhouses.
“It’s one of the most impressive facilities I’ve ever seen,” he remarked. “Family-owned, family-developed and one of the largest sets of greenhouses with seedlings going out all over the world. Just a magnificent tribute to the family, but a tribute to West Virginia also.”
When Gee arrived at the camp in Southside, it was lunchtime for the campers which this week has been hosting the younger 4H members from ages eight to sixth grade. WVU Extension Agent Rodney Wallbrown introduced Gee to campers as “the principal” of WVU. Gee immediately asked for a round of “HOW HOW” cheers which the campers were glad to deliver. Gee then told them he was once a 4H member with his first project being an ant farm, though unfortunately for the ants, they didn’t make it.
He asked those attending who would be going to WVU when they grew up, and many hands lifted in the air. Gee then recognized the Extension agents, volunteers and local 4H members who are and would be attending WVU soon. He said he likes meeting young people, some of whom he may one day welcome to the university. His visit was also to inspire those young people to “dream big” and further their education.
“This is an opportunity for me to see how our daily work with young people through 4H is going and how we’re doing,” Gee said prior to speaking to campers.
After leaving the camp, Gee and his staff, including the deans of the agriculture and honors programs, were headed to Hillbilly Hot Dogs in Lesage and then a meeting in Huntington with Marshall University Interim President Gary G. White.
As for if he’ll return to Mason County, Gee said he would, though he wasn’t sure if it will be next summer or the summer afterward.
“I like this part of the world,” he said. “I like being down here along the Ohio River. Beautiful place and wonderful people.”