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Former WVU President Gene Budig dies

Former West Virginia University president Gene Budig died Tuesday at 81. Budig was president of two other universities — Illinois State and Kansas — was a newspaper editor and author and the former president of baseball’s American League. (Photo Provided)

MORGANTOWN — Former West Virginia University president Gene Budig died Tuesday at 81. Budig was president of two other universities — Illinois State and Kansas — was a newspaper editor and author and the former president of baseball’s American League.

Budig was the WVU president who hired Gordon Gee as dean of the College of Law in 1979 and Gee succeeded Budig as president a year later. The two became and remained very good friends.

“I am deeply saddened to learn that my dear friend Gene Budig passed away this morning, and my warmest condolences go out to his wife Gretchen and the entire Budig family,” Gee said Tuesday. “Gene’s commitment to his Mountaineer family never faltered.”

While he was at WVU, Budig supported the construction of Mountaineer Field and the Shell Building. He also strengthened the University’s capacity for energy research, boosted faculty and staff salaries and increased public awareness of WVU’s land-grant mission.

“The breadth of Gene’s career accomplishments is astonishing,” Gee said. “He was also successful in a wide range of endeavors outside of academia as a major general in the Air National Guard, president of baseball’s American League and author of nine books and hundreds of newspaper columns and op-eds. Most people are lucky if they excel in one field. Gene excelled in four.”

Budig also was an occasional columnist for this newspaper, writing on a wide range of topics.

“Perhaps the thing I liked best about Gene was his very dry wit and wicked sense of humor,” Gee said. “When Gene came back to West Virginia University for our presidents’ panel in 2018, both were on full display. They helped make that special event even more memorable. I will most certainly miss our conversations and close friendship.”

Budig formed strong bonds throughout his life. Former interim WVU president C. Peter McGrath was a friend and colleague for more than 50 years. “Gene Budig was a great and good man; he is now gone, as we all will go, but the goodness he exemplified will endure,” McGrath said.

Budig is survived by his wife, Gretchen, three children, five grandchildren, his sister and his brother.

For those wishing to honor Budig, the family requests gifts be made in his memory to the WVU Foundation’s General Scholarship Fund.

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