In a new self-published book, Constance Bumgarner Gee reveals how getting caught smoking marijuana on campus at Vanderbilt University lead to the end of her marriage with E. Gordon Gee.
Higher Education: Marijuana at the Mansion details Gee's life tagging along with her husband Gordon through tenures at Ohio State, Brown and Vanderbilt universities. Gordon Gee served as president of Brown, president of Ohio State and chancellor of Vanderbilt, and Constance held faculty positions at the institutions. Prior to his marriage, Gordon was also president of University of Colorado and of West Virginia University.
It was in 2006 when the couple was at Vanderbilt that a prominent article by the Wall Street Journal revealed that Constance -- then a tenured associate professor of public policy and education -- kept and used marijuana at the chancellor's mansion. (Constance says she used it for medicinal purposes; she suffers from an inner ear ailment called Meniere’s disease, which has symptoms ranging from vertigo to deafness.)
“It had a huge impact on my life," Constance Gee told the Ohio State Lantern, a campus newspaper. "Being outed on the front page of The Wall Street Journal for smoking marijuana is not something I would wish on anybody."
Gordon and Constance would divorce five months later. Constance claims Vandy's Board of Trustees, unhappy with the negative exposure, put pressure on Gordon to distance himself from his wife, the Lantern reports.
Constance Gee was no stranger to headlines, as Inside Higher Ed notes:
She lowered the American flag at the university mansion to half-staff in the wake of President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election. She signed a letter of protest against Condoleezza Rice’s being named – by Gordon Gee – the recipient of Vanderbilt’s first “Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Public Service." Most eye-catchingly, and damagingly, she – in the article’s words – “kept marijuana at [the presidential mansion] and was using it there, according to people familiar with the matter.”
According to the Beacon Journal, there were problems with the marriage at the beginning:
Gee’s husband disappointed her at times, getting a vasectomy — a surprise to her — right before their marriage. He also required her to get rid of her beloved English setter and dwarf rabbit before he would seal the deal.
The Journal reports Gee could not find a commercial publisher for her memoir because it was deemed "too regional."
"She writes with grace, humor and honesty," Gordon Gee said in a statement released to news outlets. "The book does focus on the tragedy and triumph of our time together and the struggles we faced in the intense crucible of public life. Through it all we have managed to maintain our friendship and respect for each other."
Constance now lives in Massachusetts with her dog, Rasta, and wants to become a greater advocate for legalizing medical marijuana.