Gibbs, an accomplished administrator, devoted his entire career to promoting astronomy education, STEM teacher training, professional-amateur collaboration and public outreach.
Michael G. Gibbs, former advancement director of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), died of valley fever on Tuesday December 10, 2013. He was 41.
Gibbs was the son of Eileen and Colonel Richard T. Gibbs (U.S. Army, retired). As a high school student Gibbs was very interested in politics and campaigned door-to-door for state and federal candidates from his area. He graduated from the Valley School in Flint, Michigan and enrolled at DePaul University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science, a master’s degree in public service management, and a doctoral degree in education administration. Gibbs was passionate about STEM education, teacher training, and public outreach. His commitment to these activities guided his entire career.
During his all-to-short lifetime, Gibbs held senior administrative positions at several universities: vice president for development at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in Winona, Minnesota, assistant vice president for university initiatives at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, and vice president for advancement at Capitol College in Laurel, Maryland. At the latter institution, he also served as director of the Space Science Educational and Public Outreach program and held an appointment as assistant professor in the School of Business and Information Sciences.
Gibbs also served as the chief advancement officer for the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP). While there, he continued to hold an associate professor position at Capitol University, and taught graduate classes.
A little over a year before his untimely death, Gibbs was hired as the deputy director and chief advancement officer for the Planetary Science Institute (PSI) in Tucson, Arizona. At PSI he was a key management team member, charged with leading advancement, communications, facilities, and proposal management activities.
Though Gibbs did not pursue traditional astronomical research, he published numerous astronomy-related articles in educational magazines, journals and book chapters, averaging about 5 publications per year between 2006 and his death. These publications covered a diverse range of topics: science communications and public outreach, teacher STEM education, diversity issues, professional-amateur collaboration, workforce development, history of astronomy — even a music video. Most of these publications were in the ASP Conference series. Many involved connections between the AAS and ASP.
Gibbs was the lead editor of two books. “Perspectives on Leadership Education: Strategies for Leading and Innovation” is a compilation of essays on various topics relevant to leadership in education. The second book, “Science Educators Under the Stars: Amateur Astronomers Engaged in Education and Public Outreach”, outlines amateur astronomers’ role public outreach and scientific literacy. Gibbs was also coeditor of “Galileo’s Classroom: A Teacher Workshop in Celebration of the International Year of Astronomy 2009,” an online resource in the Galileo Teacher Training Program.
Gibbs had a certificate in fundraising management from the Fundraising School at Indiana University. His talent for fund-raising lead him to serve on the advisory boards of numerous non-profit organizations such as the ASP, the National Hispanic Institute, and the Baltimore Washington Corridor Chamber. One of his favorites was the National Tiger Sanctuary in Missouri, but he was highly recognized by many other civic organizations for his commitments to the communities in which he lived.
Throughout his career, Gibbs exhibited a passion for education and travel, visiting 36 countries. He gave invited public lectures within the U.S. and in a wide range of other countries such as the Kingdom of Bahrain and Ireland.
In December 2013 Gibbs contracted and died suddenly of valley fever, a lung infection caused by a fungi common to dry climates. He is survived by his parents Eileen and Richard, his sister Megan, and his brother Andrew.
Compiled from these sources:
Aldridge, C. “Flint native Michael G. Gibbs remembered as an influential leader with illustrious career,” Michigan Live, Dec. 13, 2013
Astronomy Outreach page “Michael G. Gibbs”
Flint Journal, Dec. 12–18, 2013, “Michael Gibbs” obituary
National Hispanic Institute Face Book page, “From all of us … in memory of a friend and Board Member of NHI,” Dec. 12, 2013
Planetary Science Institute, Aug. 21, 2012, “PSI names Michael G. Gibbs Deputy Chief Advancement Officer”
Swartz Funeral Home “Dr. Michael G. Gibbs” obituary