Leon and Dorris 50th
Leon B. Gibbs Sr. passed on July 23, 2020, at Fairfax Hospital, Virginia, after a short illness. He grew up in Middletown, Conn., a few blocks from Wesleyan University, and as a high ranking student, he was offered admission to Wesleyan. His high school dean, who knew Amherst Admission Dean Eugene Wilson, suggested that he visit our College, whereupon Leon decided to accept Admission Dean Wilson’s offer, to join the Amherst freshman class of more than 250 students.  

Leon was a dedicated, hard-working student who majored in psychology while at Amherst. By the time he graduated, two of the original five African-Americans in his class had transferred to other institutions, leaving Gibbs, Bill Davis ’63 and Hugh Price ’63, as the only three African-Americans in the class of 1963. Far from feeling out of place, however, Gibbs thrived throughout his four years at Amherst. He was active in the Lord Jeff Society and was the leader of a band which played live music throughout the Five-College area. 

Business and Professional Accomplishments:

After graduating from Columbia University in 1965 with his MBA and master’s in international affairs, Leon accomplished the following:

  • Worked for four major pharmaceutical companies in consumer product advertising, product management and international consulting.
  • Accepted a permanent position at Johnson & Johnson, which had operations in 68 countries; assumed management of J&J’s operations in Puerto Rico and Panama.
  • At the request of J&J’s company chairman, took a leave of absence to work on former President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 Commission on Executive Exchange. 

Leon was an avid golfer, who traveled to professional tournaments with his wife; his hobby was following Tiger Woods in his prime. His greatest joy was playing golf three times a week with several senior clubs; finally, after 40 years of playing, he got “a hole in one” at Twin Lakes Golf Course. The family, of course, has the framed photo.
Leon is survived by his loving wife, Dorris Veneda Gibbs; son Leon B. Gibbs Jr.; daughter-in-law Tonya Therese Gibbs; and two grandchildren. 

Giving Back to Amherst

For years, Gibbs had considered ways to give back to Amherst as a “thank you” for the enormous impact the school had on his life. He reached out to his two African-American classmates Hugh Price ’63 and Bill Davis ’63, and the three made a decision to set up a scholarship fund for students of color, with a goal of $1 million. The dollar goal of the Asa J. Davis-Leon B. Gibbs Scholarship Fund was met September 2020, thanks to gifts from Gibbs and his classmates in the class of 1963.

William A. “Bill” Davis Jr. ’63