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Constance Gee writes well. She keeps the reader's attention throughout. Quite naturally, she paints herself as a sympathetic character, which she is in some ways, rather than the villain she is considered to be by most observers involved in this convoluted tale. She is, at best, a square peg in a round hole. Her personality is just not suited for her public role as a university First Lady. As she recounts her suffering with Meniere's Disease, one can understand why she turned to marijuana to relieve her refractory symptoms. In her Afterword she makes a strong case for legalizing marijuana, at least for medical use. I am not convinced.
I am surprised that Gordon Gee, her husband and a university President on six occasions (4 once, Ohio State twice), "allowed" her to write this book and even cooperated with her in doing so. In the eyes of many, Constance is at fault in her husband's circuitous journey from Ohio State to Brown to Vanderbilt and back to Ohio State. I think he is equally culpable, maybe more so than she.
Those with any interest in what a university president does and how richly he (or she) is rewarded will find this to be a fascinating read. Wider audiences will enjoy it as well.
Constance Bumgarner Gee's epigraph for Higher Education: Marijuana at the Mansion is appropriately chosen. Quoting from P.D. Wodehouse she writes. "I am not always good and noble. I am the hero of this story, but I have my off moments." Gee attempts in this compelling and entertaining memoir to make clear the role she played (and did not play) in the controversial situations at Brown and Vanderbilt universities when her husband served as their chancellors. A major purpose behind her painfully honest accounts may be to give the straight facts about her marijuana use; however, her painfully honest accounts both of life in a restrictive, provincial hometown with an abusive alcoholic father and of her difficult, demanding marriage to the president of Ohio University show wisdom and self-knowledge making this book a significant contribution to literature about women's issues. Perhaps more obvious a contribution is the information readers gain about Meniere's disease and the medical use of marijuana. At any rate readers will learn from this book.
Gee's academic focus is art policy, but she might well consider writing more. This is a remarkable memoir, very well-written, with an ironic tone that is often quite humorous. There is rarely a page without at least a phrase or two the reader feels compelled to read aloud to someone with the comment, "She expressed that so well!" I strongly recommend this book!
Constance's Higher Education: Marijuana in the Mansion is by far the most intriguing and definitive memoir on her life with Gordon Gee, as they progressed through the university systems at the helm of The Ohio State University, Brown University, and Vanderbilt. She obviously didn't make the round trip with her ex-husband to OSU. Through her remarkable candidness, you realize this is a vision of what she experienced over those good and bad years, almost as though she had documented the period using Cinéma Vérité. A truly believable tale and one told through a personal conversation with the reader. Obviously, it is her story and some may argue that it is biased to her slant, but how could it be any different. Others associated with this tale will either stick to their version, or as the more intelligent might see it, learn a new side to the happenings around them. Constance's belief in the cause of medical marijuana and her depiction of her battle with Meniere's Disease, shows some of the hypocrisy surrounding the positions of camps on both sides of the illegal drug argument. Unfortunately, the people needing treatment are the ones that loose out in the battle over legalization. This book reads extremely quickly. Even a slow reader will devour it. It is well documented and expressed in terms that one will clearly understand. There are no hidden messages, since everything is on her sleeve. Bravo Constance, job well done!
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Elizabeth Gee's book is about a woman who was married to a man who was married to the university, more specifically a man who was married to the status and money associated with being a university chancellor.
Ultimately, Ms. Gee came to understand that her husband, Gordon Gee, loved the money and university prestige more than he loved her. Once the good wife was seen as no longer a good wife by the powers that be, she became an expendable wife. No matter that as she and her chancellor husband continually wined and dined potential university donors, it was simply way beyond good taste for the first lady to smoke marijuana in their university mansion even though it gave her some relief from her debilitating ear disease.
For this reader, the author communicated that her husband was a hustler who needed to be loved by everyone, who had the ability to convince others who he barely knew that they were special. The irony here is that such specialness was not applied to his wife, particularly when she was ill and stigmatized.
The author was able to communicate her insights about her husband and university life, but ultimately in this memoir she was unable to communicate insights about herself, eg, her dependency on her husband as it possibly related to her rejecting alcoholic father.
But no matter, I loved this book and I loved Elizabeth Gee. Best book I have read about university status games since reading CHARLOTTE SIMMONS.