COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- Ohio State University President Gordon Gee won't be speaking to students at a Catholic high school's graduation this weekend. Ohio State announced Gee has offered to cancel the speaking engagement. It comes a week after jokes about Catholics and other universities surfaced from a December meeting.
"Dr. Gee did actually reach out and offer to withdraw as the speaker," said OSU spokesperson Gayle Saunders. She says the decision was made Monday afternoon.
Gee's joked that the University of Notre Dame wasn't invited to join the Big 10 because you "can't trust those damn Catholics." He also said the priests at Notre Dame were holy on Sunday by "holy hell" the rest of the week. He later apologized.
"Graduation is such an important time, it's an inspiring time, a seminole moment for young people and their families, so Dr. Gee really wanted to ensure that the appropriate focus was kept on them, the graduates and their families," Saunders said.
St. Francis DeSales High School Princpial Dan Garrick says while he hates to see the situation play out the way it has, he thinks Gee's decision was for the best.
"It would become a focus on Dr. Gee more so than the 185 young people that would be graduating," Garrick said.
He says Gee actually e-mailed him last week while out of town to apologize about the comments. It was an apology Garrick says he accepted "without reservations."
Garrick tells 610 WTVN that he did get feedback from students and parents on both sides of the issue, but was never pressured to make a decision on Gee's speaking.
"I really do not believe in any shape or form that this defines him as a person or as an education. I have strong respect for him on both fronts," Garrick said.
In addition to the Catholic jokes, Gee also made comments about several universities including the University of Louisville, University of Kentucky, and University of Cincinnati.
Trustees at Ohio State ordered Gee on a "remediation plan." It ordered him to apologize for his comments and hire a person to help write speeches. Trustees also asked him to accept fewer speaking invitations.