By Gary D. Myers
NEW ORLEANS – 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 beloved professor John Gibson.
Gibson, 56, died Aug. 24.
A memorial service for Gibson will be held in Leavell Chapel on the seminary campus Aug. 28, at 10:30 a.m. The service is a joint effort between NOBTS and First Baptist Church, New Orleans where Gibson’s wife, Christi, served as minister of discipleship and missions. The service will be streamed live at the following link: www.nobts.edu/chapel/memorial.html.
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 service. EMS workers were unable to revive him, and Gibson was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of death is still undetermined.
Born in Louisiana to a long line of Baptist ministers, Gibson spent many of his formative years in Mississippi and Georgia where his father served in pastoral ministry. Gibson earned his undergraduate degree from Mississippi College and went on to earn a master of divinity and doctor of theology degrees at NOBTS.
Gibson served as youth minister and senior pastor at numerous churches in Louisiana and Mississippi. At the time of his death, Gibson 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.
Elected to the faculty of Leavell College (College of Undergraduate Studies at the time) in 1998, he served for 17 years. Before his faculty election, 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,” said Seminary President Chuck Kelley. “He was particularly known for his acts of kindness to the seminary family. John was the quintessential good neighbor.”
According to Kelley, 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.
“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,” said Thomas Strong, dean of Leavell College. “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.”
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, Christi, he is survived by two adult children: Callie, who is 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 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 http://www.nobts.edu.