Gebeyehu “Gebe” Ejigu’s quiet demeanor played in stark contrast to an outsized reputation that spoke volumes about his integrity and commitment to Governors State University, its faculty, staff, and, most of all, students during his 11-year tenure as Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff, and Special Advisor to President Elaine P. Maimon.
Ejigu retired on Aug. 31, bringing to an end almost five decades of service to students across his adopted land, from Alaska to Illinois.
As GSU prepares to celebrate its 50-year anniversary, Jaguars—from big cats to young cubs—recently reflected on the legacy of the man known simply as Gebe.
Board Chair Pat Ormsby
From the start, I was very impressed with the financial condition of the university. GSU had a very strong balance sheet with a surplus that had been built up over several years by spending less than the annual budget. What I discovered was that this did not happen by chance but was part of a long term plan developed by Dr. Ejigu and Dr. Maimon to develop a reserve to be used for special projects and emergencies. These reserves were especially effective in helping GSU weather the recent budget impasse in Illinois. This is just one example of the strategic planning ability of Gebe. He was involved in the planning of many strategic initiatives ranging from improving the GSU facilities to increasing enrollment to improving academic programs. His guidance has been invaluable to Dr. Maimon and the BOT.
Trustee Bruce Friefeld, founding member of the GSU Board of Trustees
There is nothing—from becoming a four-year university, to establishing the dormitory, to establishing the athletic program—that he wasn't involved in, and he will be missed.
Former Trustee Lorine Samuels, led the Board that hired President Elaine P. Maimon
I saw Gebe as a man of integrity who was very knowledgeable and with indelible commitment.
Linda A. Coleman, doctoral candidate in the Interdisciplinary Studies Program, Student Trustee who took a popular Organizational Behavior online course from Ejigu
Many of the students that met in Gebe’s online class remain friends. I truly believe that this is a testament to his teaching style and to his passion, care, and concern for students.
Nick Battaglia, retired in 2016, after having served in a variety of roles including Assistant VP for Enrollment Management, and later coordinator of the Ellucian Colleague implementation
One of Gebe’s many contributions to GSU will be a shift in the university’s culture. He was a major force in maturing the environment of GSU—in developing a GSU 2.0, if you will.
Gebe was a walking and talking example of “managing by walking around.” Gebe would just show up—and show up frequently—often with big ideas. He was very much interested in keeping an aggressive timetable for identifying and moving projects forward to completion. And they were very much for the benefit of our students and our public stakeholders. He couldn’t stand seeing students standing in line, for example, and was forever looking for ways to improve processes and policies to improve their experience.
Gebe accomplished all that he accomplished while holding everyone who worked for him in high regard. He was caring and respectful at every step of the way.
He’s one of the smartest people I’ve worked for. In his “Gebe-ly way,” one of the most caring. I’m glad I had a chance to experience working with him closely for several years. Believe me, it was something to see.
Tracy Sullivan, Assistant Vice President for Procurement and Business Services
Everybody here knew him. When you think of superstars—you think of Cher and you think of Prince. We’ve got a one-name wonder here—Gebe.
Aurélio Valente, Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management
When you worked with Gebe, you knew you were working with an innovative thinker and entrepreneur; you always had the feeling that anything was possible.
Will Davis, Vice President for Development and CEO of the GSU Foundation
Outside of his family, GSU is Gebe’s life and legacy. There was a time when colleagues referred to GSU as Gebernors State University; Gebe never liked the recognition or limelight, but those of us behind the scenes know he was the engine moving us forward.
Jeffrey Slovak, retired GSU Deputy Vice President for Administration and Finance
The success of GSU’s transformation from what it was when he arrived to what it is now as he retires is his legacy.
Joan Johns Maloney, Special Assistant to the Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff and Board Secretary
Gebe was known for getting things done, often quickly, which is almost unheard of in higher education. He was often frustrated with the process and told me he thinks like an engineer—very proactive. When Gebe wanted something done, he made sure it was!
Dozens of projects were completed under his watch, and today’s Administration and Finance team continues to follow his roadmap to address ongoing facility needs. Because of Gebe, GSU is a much better functioning, safer, and more beautiful campus.