On the cover of this week's dead-tree edition of The City Paper is Constance Gee, the former first lady of Vanderbilt whose marriage to then-Chancellor Gordon Gee ended shortly after revelations about her use of marijuana to counteract the effects of Ménière's disease in 2006.
Gordon now serves as president of Ohio State University, where he has continued — if you'll forgive a less-than academic phrase — to make it rain. Constance is out with a new memoir entitled Higher Education: Marijuana at the Mansion.
The story within is the subject of Abby White's intriguing cover story, which serves as a sneak peek at the book, as well as the inner workings of Vanderbilt University and Constance's side of the Gee saga.
White's story makes for juicy reading about high-level administrative politics at Vanderbilt — including Constance's claim that the university pressured her to divorce her chancellor husband:
In February 2007, the Gees met with Nashville attorneys Aubrey Harwell and Jim Neal, founding partners of Neal & Harwell PLC, whom Vanderbilt kept on retainer, and — according to Constance Gee — the same lawyers who advised her to respond “no comment” after the Journal revealed her marijuana use. Gee recalled the emotional conversation from this meeting, which led to the end of the marriage.
“I filed for divorce,” Gee said solemnly. “I didn’t want to, but I was told that I had to. Vanderbilt was involved in this in a big way. Gordon asked me to come to [Neal and Harwell’s] office, and they said, ‘You have to give him a divorce.’ I said, ‘No, I don’t, do I?’ And they said, ‘Oh yes, you do. You have to give him a divorce. Are you going to give him a divorce?’
“I was so exhausted,” Gee said. “So beaten up by the whole thing at that point, and I finally I just turned around and said, ‘OK.’ I was crying. I was stunned. And Aubrey very nicely walked me to the elevator, and he said, ‘Think of yourself. Hire a lawyer. You need a lawyer.’ So that’s when I got the divorce attorney.”
Gee said even at that point, she still hoped that reconciliation was an option, as Gordon Gee wavered in his decision to divorce. She wrote that he told her “he intended to proceed with the divorce, but he might change his mind at any time up until its finalization. Whether he changed his mind would ‘depend on how well the arbitration goes.’ That is, if everything goes smoothly and doesn’t get litigious or hostile, he could, up until the moment of signing the divorce papers, stop the proceedings.”
“I just kept begging Gordon, but it was clear,” Gee said. “Let’s just say, it wasn’t just Gordon. There were a lot of people involved in this. I had to go. It was clear that I had to go.” She hired prominent divorce attorney Rose Palermo to represent her, and filed for divorce in February 2007, citing “irreconcilable differences.”
“I kind of wish I hadn’t done that now,” she admitted. “Because I really didn’t want to. But I just felt backed into it. I felt cornered, and so I filed.”