The first day of a new semester was marred by sadness as New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary's Leavell College students learned of the death of John Gibson, professor of communication.
Gibson, 56, died Aug. 24.
A memorial service for Gibson, known for his acts of kindness within the seminary community, will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Aug. 28, in Leavell Chapel on the seminary campus in a joint service with First Baptist Church in New Orleans, where Gibson's wife, Christi, has served as minister of discipleship and missions.
Gibson was discovered at his home on the seminary campus at approximately 5:30 p.m. Aug. 24 by his wife when she arrived home from work. After finding Gibson unresponsive, she immediately notified emergency medical services. EMS workers were unable to revive Gibson, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of death is still undetermined.
Gibson was elected to the faculty of Leavell College (called the College of Undergraduate Studies at the time) in 1998. Before joining the faculty, Gibson led the seminary's student enlistment department and served as director of alumni relations and church minister relations.
"John was a popular member of our Leavell College faculty," NOBTS President Chuck Kelley said. "He was particularly known for his acts of kindness to the seminary family. John was the quintessential good neighbor."
Gibson worked tirelessly in his spare time, providing free car repair for countless seminary students. Often, Kelley said, Gibson purchased parts out of his own pocket and refused to receive repayment from students.
Thomas Strong, dean of Leavell College, said, "As a colleague, he was known as one to express care and compassion in a tangible way both to our students and to our faculty. John was loved by the students because of his love for the ministry and for them; he was always a favorite. Our hearts are saddened as we miss greatly a significant part of our Leavell College family—a colleague—a friend. We are better because of John and the way God used him in our lives."
Born in Louisiana to a long line of Baptist ministers, Gibson spent many of his formative years in Mississippi, where his father served in pastoral ministry. He earned master of divinity and doctor of theology degrees at NOBTS and an undergraduate degree from Mississippi College.
Gibson served as youth minister and senior pastor at numerous churches in Louisiana and Mississippi. At the time of his death, he was pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Pearlington, Miss., a community located on the banks of the Pearl River. The town of Pearlington was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and Gibson worked tirelessly with recovery efforts there and in New Orleans, where he lived.
Leavell College students were notified of Gibson's death during the first class period Aug. 25. Morning classes were dismissed and students were encouraged to gather in the Hardin Student Center with friends, professors, area pastors and members of the local collegiate ministry staff as they processed the news. The seminary's Leeke Magee Christian Counseling Center set aside a special time for members of the seminary family to receive counseling services beginning Aug. 25.
The impact Gibson made on the seminary campus was evident by the outpouring of appreciation, grief and shock that appeared on social media following the announcement of his death. Students, alumni, faculty and staff posted numerous, poignant statements about the professor on Facebook and Twitter. Many shared stories of a timely car repair by Gibson, while others shared lessons learned under his teaching.
Kelley asked for prayer for the Gibson family and the entire NOBTS community in this time of loss. In addition to his wife, Gibson is survived by two adult children: Callie, a doctoral student at the University of Alabama, and Trey, an undergraduate student at Louisiana State University.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial gifts be made to the John Gibson Servant Leadership Fund established at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, c/o Institutional Advancement, 3939 Gentilly Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70126 or online at www.nobts.edu.