By Ashley Morgan, guest blogger
WVU student and Student Government Association Vice President
The Student Government Association Board of Governors passed a proclamation on Jan. 27 to honor President Gordon Gee on his 72nd birthday. This proclamation declared Feb. 2 as #DubGeeDay and called all faculty, staff and students to celebrate President Gee’s birthday.
To prepare, Elizabeth Barnhart, SGA director of communications, began working with myself, President George Capel and Chief of Staff Erin Heeter to make this day a success. We passionately started to call ourselves the “Gee Team” and decided that in order to surprise President Gee we needed to keep this day top secret.
For the next few days, very few people knew about the event. The “Gee Team” worked with University Relations to make limited edition Gee buttons, host a photo booth in the Mountainlair (our student union) and secure the “Pride of West Virginia” Mountaineer Marching Band to play “Happy Birthday.” We also worked with Culinary Creations to have a large cake for President Gee.
Once the big day arrived, SGA and other groups around campus hit social media by storm. The “Gee Team” held a booth in the Mountainlair and talked to as many students as we could. We encouraged students to take pictures for President Gee in the photo booth and use #DubGeeDay when they posted pictures on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
On social media, SGA’s Twitter account communicated with students who couldn’t make it to the Mountainlair to post their favorite photo of President Gee on Twitter using the hashtag. Before long, #DubGeeDay was trending on Twitter in the Pittsburgh area. In fact, it was the top trend in the area for five hours – besting even Groundhog Day. Hundreds of students, alumni, staff and faculty posted their favorite photo with the hashtag.
In total, the hashtag was used around 600 times and reached nearly 500,000 people. We saw posts from countries like Japan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Arab Emirates, among others.
The exclusive President Gee Birthday button was given out in the Mountain lair right before the big surprise. Students were encouraged to come back to the Mountainlair at 3:45 pm to get their limited-edition button and surprise President Gee. Hundreds of students lined up to get their button and waited for President Gee to arrive.
The “Gee Team” worked with the President’s office to put a meeting on his agenda
that was a little fib. University Relations Vice President Sharon Martin brought
President Gee over where he met Elizabeth and me, and we walked him into the
President Gee was completely surprised when he walked into the Mountainlair to see hundreds of students waiting to celebrate his birthday with him. With cake, punch and the “Pride of West Virginia,” President Gee enjoyed celebrating his day with students. He was able to meet many students and talk to them. He later said on Twitter through a video that this was his favorite birthday ever.
As student leaders, being able to surprise the person who is so dedicated to students like President Gee was a wonderful opportunity. The “Gee Team” and members of SGA and other organizations across campus collected hundreds of cards and photos to commemorate #DubGeeDay. The event will be one that will not be forgotten for a long time, because of the opportunity to work with administrators and students across the University to celebrate the one and only President Gordon Gee.