Remembering former APhA President Robert D. Gibson

UCSF’s Gibson, Remington Honor Medalist, was leader for diversity and mentor to many

Bob Gibson, Remington Honor Medalist

Robert D. Gibson, PharmD, the 2000–2001 APhA President who received the Remington Honor Medal in 2006, died on July 19 at age 93. A native of Tacoma, WA, Gibson was a 1958 alumnus of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Pharmacy. He spent his career there, progressing in a series of leadership positions across 5 decades.

His celebration of life is being planned for Friday, October 12, 2018, from 3:00 to 5:00 pm PDT, at Millberry Union Conference Center, 500 Parnassus Avenue, San Francisco. The UCSF website has additional information, including an RSVP form for those who hope to attend. Gibson’s family requests no flowers but asks that contributions be made to UCSF School of Pharmacy and Hospice of Petaluma. In addition, the APhA Foundation has a named scholarship.

“Bob was special to me for a lot of reasons, but one was the fact that he was the second African-American President of APhA, with Mary Munson Runge being the first,” said Lawrence “LB” Brown, PharmD, PhD, FAPhA, who served as the third African-American APhA President in 2015–2016.

“There were a lot of sides to Bob Gibson: the father, the husband, the professor, the leader, the president,” Brown said. “But without a doubt, one of the most memorable moments of his career—besides seeing him receive the Remington Honor Medal, of course—was during his APhA President’s speech.”

That’s when Gibson told his famous story “about seeing a turtle on a tall fence post and knowing that the turtle didn’t get there by himself.”

APhA Speaker of the House and 2019–2020 APhA President-elect Michael D. Hogue, PharmD, FAPhA, FNAP, served as the national student president for the APhA Academy of Student Pharmacists and was on the APhA Board of Trustees with Gibson.

“Bob was always a strong advocate for student pharmacists and always had an encouraging word for me,” said Hogue, who is professor of pharmacy and associate dean of the Center of Faith and Health at Samford University in Birmingham, AL.

“He and I shared many laughs together, and I was—and continue to be—inspired about his vision and passion for the profession of pharmacy,” Hogue said. “He will be missed greatly by many.”

Former APhA Speaker of the House and Trustee Wilma K. Wong, PharmD, a 1973 graduate of UCSF School of Pharmacy, was very happy to share time on the APhA Board of Trustees with “Gibby,” as Wong affectionately called him.

“Bob Gibson was a wonderful mentor to me,” Wong said, starting when she was in pharmacy school more than 45 years ago. He was associate dean of student affairs, and Wong was privileged to get to know him when they were conducting admissions interviews for the school. At that time, there was an effort to increase minority recruitment.

“Gibby was a warm teddy bear of a guy. Always with a quick smile, a twinkle in his eye, and a good joke to share,” Wong added. “He was a great speaker, and always did a wonderful job as an emcee. He provided guidance to the profession in his many elected roles and to the hundreds, maybe thousands, of colleagues and student pharmacists. He always made me smile. His presence will be greatly missed.”

Brown—who is associate dean of student affairs and professor of pharmacoecomomics and health policy at Chapman University School of Pharmacy in Irvine, CA—said his earliest memory of Gibson was during the 1997 California Pharmacists Association meeting in Los Angeles:

“I was a first-year pharmacy student, and just excited and honored to be able to attend the meeting. While I was walking past one of the ballrooms, I looked over and saw this stately gentleman and a lovely lady beside him. I went over to introduce myself, and it turned out to be Bob and his lovely wife, Linda.

“They were both so gracious, and Bob spent over 30 minutes talking with me, asking me questions, and, I think, probing to see what I was made of. He was all smiles and warm feelings.

“We really hit it off, and Bob ended up being my mentor from then until when he passed. For me, it was a true honor to have been taken under his wing for over 20 years.”

Brown continued, “There is so much more that I could say, but I thought it important to share how much of a positive impact Bob had on my life, and I’m sure so many others as well. As Michelle Obama once said: ‘Success isn’t about how much money you make. It’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.’ And by that measure, Bob Gibson was very wealthy indeed.”