By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee, who found himself under scrutiny after making comments disparaging to Catholics, announced his retirement on Tuesday, less than a week after the school said he had been put on a "remediation plan".
Gee, the third-highest-paid U.S. public university president, said in a statement released by the university that after much deliberation he had made the decision to retire, effective July 1.
"I have decided it is now time for me to turn over the reins of leadership to allow the seeds that we have planted to grow," Gee said. "It is also time for me to reenergize and refocus myself."
Gee was earning about $1.9 million in the 2011/2012 academic year, according to The Lantern, the university's school paper.
The Ohio State Board of Trustees said last week that Gee had been put on an "ongoing remediation plan" to address his behavior in light of comments he made at a Ohio State Athletics Council meeting last December.
Among the comments made by Gee, a Mormon, was one in which he jokingly referred to religious leaders at the University of Notre Dame as "those damn Catholics" when discussing the school's possible inclusion into the Big Ten athletic conference.
Gee has also apologized to collegiate members of the University of Louisville and other schools for disparaging remarks he made at the same meeting.
"There is no excuse for this and I am deeply sorry," Gee said in a statement released on May 30 apologizing for his gaffes.
Gee's future at Ohio State was called into question after board chairman Robert Schottenstein said in May that "These statements were inappropriate, were not presidential in nature, and do not comport with the core values of the University."
Gee served as Ohio State's president for two terms, from 1990-1997 and 2007 to the present. Besides his service at Ohio State, he has also led Vanderbilt University, Brown University, the University of Colorado and West Virginia University.
Executive Vice President and Provost Joseph A. Alutto will be named interim president. Alutto previously served as interim president in 2007.
(The story corrects to show Gee is third highest paid U.S. public university president.)
(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Mary Wisniewski, Cynthia Johnston and Bob Burgdorfer)