Tributes in Memory of Forum Founding Board Member, Geoffrey E. Gee

The Forum was extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Geoffrey E. Gee, a member of The Forum’s founding Board of Directors, on December 28.

Kathy Sideli, a fellow founding board member remembers Geoffrey from the early days of the formation of The Forum:

“Geoffrey Gee was one of the 20 founding board members of The Forum on Education Abroad.  He was at the first informal gathering of a number of those individuals on November 11, 2000 in Montreal after a CIEE conference. On that day the colleagues who assembled together decided it was time to get serious about creating an organization devoted exclusively to education abroad issues. They came from public and private colleges and universities as well as organizations, including providers, but they came together to form a new organization as individuals rather than institutional representatives.

In the next 2 ½ years, Geoffrey attended the frequent meetings of the board which took place around the U.S.—Tucson, Philadelphia, Washington DC, San Antonio, Atlanta and Salt Lake City, along with two long strategic planning weekends at Arcadia University in the summers of 2001 and 2002.  He served on the board’s first Membership Services Committee that envisioned The Forum’s deliverables for the field. And he also served on the Forum Goals Committee on Curricular Development and Academic Design before it transitioned fully to the responsibility of the first Forum Council which was elected in 2002. Geoffrey rotated off the board, along with seven other board members, in June of 2003, as an indication to the field that the founding board members were committed to passing along the leadership of The Forum to other colleagues. After he completed his official leadership role in The Forum, Geoffrey remained a passionate supporter of the organization throughout the rest of his career.”

Jane Edwards, Dean of International and Professional Experience and Senior Associate Dean, Yale College remembers Geoffrey:

“Geoffrey is for me one of those friends from graduate school years who remained a friend, and who also became a valued colleague in international education. Geoffrey stood out in the early years as exceptionally sophisticated, indeed European, dedicated to elegant and flamboyant cuisine and fashion. As we remembered him together, my friends disagreed energetically about whether his favorite velvet pants (this was the 1970s, after all) were green or pink. Through all the years, his unique blend of humor and intelligence made him one of my favorite companions, and I always sought him out in our professional conference life, to share stories in many cities over an expresso or a glass of wine.”

Ann Kuhlman, Executive Director of Yale’s Office of International Students and Scholars remembers the beginning of Geoffrey’s career:

“I may not have this exactly correct, but I am going to take credit for OIP hiring Geoffrey in the late 1970’s as an international scholar adviser at Penn’s Office of International Programs. Geoffrey entered the professional world of international education (a world he had experienced as a student) as a J-1 scholar adviser and that hire for me was the beginning of a long and rich friendship.  Shortly thereafter a study abroad adviser position opened up at OIP and Geoffrey jumped at the opportunity to move into the world of study abroad. He never looked back – it was a perfect fit given his own experience and interest. He was a global citizen before we even coined the term – bi-lingual, well-traveled, and very cultured. (Was it Geoffrey who introduced me to Lillet at the LaTerrasse bar?) One of the joys in the many years that followed was the opportunity to catch up with Geoffrey and Denise at NAFSA conferences. I will treasure those memories.”

Geoffrey served as the Director of Penn Abroad in the Office of International Programs at the University of Pennsylvania. Joyce Randolph, former Executive Director of the Office of International Programs at the University of Pennsylvania worked together with Geoffrey for 20 years.

“I could not have wished for a better colleague—a caring and knowledgeable student advisor, a conscientious mentor to newer staff, an astute advisor to faculty and administrators, and a diligent builder of successful study abroad programs in Europe, Asia and Africa. With his high school experience in France culminating in a “baccalaureat” and his master’s degree in Middle Eastern studies, Geoffrey was truly multilingual, urbane and appreciative of myriad cultures including their cuisines. Complementing his wicked sense of humor were honesty and a huge heart.  I remember especially how he often accompanied various undergraduates to our partner university in Nigeria, to help ease them into a study abroad experience that entailed complete immersion, life in a dorm room without air-conditioning or running water, distant drumming in the night, fascinating cultural experiences and friendships with Nigerian intellectuals. A few of Geoffrey’s students became professors of African studies and stayed in touch with him over the years.  Yes, Geoffrey was the sort of person with whom one wanted to stay in touch.”

Marcia Henisz and January Stayton worked as program managers and education abroad advisors under Geoffrey’s leadership.

“While extremely knowledgeable, Geoffrey did not immediately solve every crisis, allowing a younger generation to grapple with big problems and test our own ideas for solutions that paved the path for future leadership roles for many members of our team. He never sought the limelight for himself, but was incredibly supportive of team members in pursuing professional opportunities that broadened their horizons and contributed to the field of international education. He instilled in the Penn Abroad team a strong feeling that our work and our field were incredibly important, not just to the university, but to our country and to our world and that our work had a substantially positive impact.” (Marcia Henisz, Senior Director of International Health, Safety and Security at Drexel University)

“If you are lucky, you encounter individuals who change the trajectory of your life. Geoffrey Gee was one of those people.  They are like shooting stars, they are rare but leave you in awe of their presence.  Not only did Geoffrey change the path of my life, he helped me move forward on a specific path, pivot when necessary, and all the while expand my experience and knowledge of the world. The cliche of not knowing the impact one’s life has on others, has never been truer, than in the case of Geoffrey. He impacted the lives of many in a quiet way.  He created opportunities for people, he listened, he shared personal stories; he was a reassuring presence: he smiled, he laughed, he endeared himself to others, and helped people grow personally and professionally. Geoffrey was principled and witty. He was an old soul with a young heart.  He loved music and food. We traveled to Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sweden, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark. These experiences were fun, exhausting, and confusing, but always brilliant and enriching.” (January Wuerth, Student Success Coach, University Life Coaching)

Geoffrey shared his love of international education with his wife Denise Connerty, former Assistant Vice President, International Affairs at Temple University. The Forum extends its deepest condolences to Denise; children Alexandra Vergne, Emmanuel Gee, and Maddie Gee; and grandchildren Margaux Vergne, Carter and Raquel Gee; and to Geoffrey’s extended family, friends and colleagues.

View Geoffrey Gee’s obituary»