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Gee Lake known for wildlife, wild stunts

By Jasmin Brown
On October 29, 2010

Ceremonial dunking, daredevil stunts and duck hunting have all been a part of campus life associated with Gee Lake at A&M-Commerce.

Gee Lake is located in front of the Performing Arts Center (PAC) and is named after the late Dr. James Gilliam Gee, president of East Texas State University (1947-1966).

According to Special Collections archives, Gee Lake also used to be part of an irrigation system that supplied water to Memorial Stadium, and when the lake was enlarged in 1950, some of the soil removed was used to level the football field and for local housing projects.

Aside from serving as a tranquil retreat to students and other Commerce residents, Gee Lake used to be a more active facet in campus life.

According to archives from the Special Collections, the lake used to serve as "a traditional dunk for fraternity men upon announcement of engagements or birthdays," and, "During the summer, bikini-clad coeds stretch on the banks, soaking in both sun and attention."

Two students told a story of concerning the ashes of PAC designer Dr. Curtis L. Pope.

"According to the pair, at the time of his death in 1989, Pope only had one surviving relative, a sibling who was in a nursing home, so legend has it the alumni met and decided to spread Pope's ashes over Gee Lake."

On the less morbid side, one Gee Lake legend purports that a theater professor rolled his Volkswagen Bug into lake.

Over the years, students have also performed some "questionable stunts" on Gee Lake.

An Oct. 23, 2003 East Texan article on Gee Lake reads in part: "Inspired by the MTV phenomenon "Jackass," radio/television majors have used the lake for their own re-creations of the show…including this past winter when a few students set up a ramp and one rode his bike off of it and into the lake. On another occasion, two young men actually jumped from the roof of the Performing Arts Center into the water."

Perhaps the most visible and eccentric residents of Gee Lake are its waterfowl: Musovy ducks, hybrid mallards and Bean Geese.

According to, a group of bean geese is collectively known as a "pod." Gee Lake's pod of Bean Geese is a crowd pleaser for several Commerce residents who enjoy feeding them.

University Police Department Crime Information Officer Lt. Jason Bone has become quite familiar with the Gee Lake birds over the years.

"The ducks and geese at Gee Lake belong to no one," he said. "They just live here, and now have become a local Commerce fixture. I will say that this is the only place I have seen police officers stop traffic to allow ducks to cross the highway. "

According to Bone, there have been some incidents in which people attempted to harm birds.

"We have had people in the past attempting to hunt ducks for food," he said.

True to their nature, the Gee Lake birds have been known to provide opportunities for comic relief to passers-by.

"We used to have a gander that would chase people," Bone said. "I attended a play some years ago and saw a commotion outside during intermission. It turned out there was a gander chasing people. They were running away all panicked."

As serious as goose chase might seem to a barelegged pedestrian, Head of the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences Dr. Jeff Kopechena said there is no reason to fear the geese.

"They can be aggressive," Kopachena said. "I think that's part of their nature. They tend to be a bit defensive, especially the males."

Kopachena said the geese are "semi-domesticated" and do not migrate as Bean Geese normally do.

"I think they serve a purpose in that people find them entertaining," he said. "So I think they provide a value."

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