For many years, members of the Salem High School Alumni Association have gathered over a cup of coffee in the kitchens of member homes or after hours in the desks where they worked to lean over about finances and making decisions about scholarships.
That’s how they’ve always operated since the first scholarship fund was established in 1903. In four years, they had enough money to buy a $ 1,000 bond. Then, in 1908, the interest of $ 60 was awarded to a graduate of Salem High, Walter French. The rule was never to touch the principal, and over the years, interest grew and more and more scholarships were awarded to graduates.
Charles Gibbs and Daniel E. Smith both started their careers in Salem and were actively involved in the association’s activities. Dan, a 1946 graduate, opened a downtown jewelry store. Charles, who graduated in 1943, started as a branch manager at First National Bank across from Dan’s store and rose to assistant cashier and cashier. He was promoted to senior vice president in 1972 and then executive vice president and then president following the takeover of First National by the Society Bank in 1984.
Investments and finances were second nature to Charles, and in 1977 he accepted the position of treasurer of the scholarship and association committee, and chairman of the investment committee. He couldn’t imagine it then, but he would hold the posts for 25 years until his retirement.
Record keeping became more demanding and packing and unpacking the association’s books from one meeting place to another was a chore. A permanent home was the answer, a basis for association, and a place where elders could come together when they wanted to organize meetings and gatherings. For alumni who lived out of town and out of state, an association office would be a perfect place for them to stop and visit while in town.
Dan Smith found the answer. Above his jewelry store, there was 1,200 square feet of vacant space that he and Charles thought would be perfect for the association’s first home. Dan offered the homes to the association on a 15-year rent-free basis, and the two men cleaned up the years of cobwebs and dust and moved the association.
The main office was at the front of the quarters, and a meeting and exhibition room and kitchenette were at the rear. The office opened in the early summer of 1984, and by the end of the summer it was decorated with drapes, desks and chairs. A mail solicitation limited to 18 alumni classes at Salem High provided an immediate response.
Charles’s service to the association and his business acumen were recognized in 1986 when he was chosen Outstanding Alumnus of the Year. The association had honored a distinguished graduate since 1958, when Fred E. Cope of the Class of 1925 received the award. Russell and Sara Pearce Gibbs raised two daughters and two sons, Nanee Bennett and Elizabeth Thatcher, as well as Charles and his brother, James.
After graduating from high school, he served in the Navy. World War II was still in progress and Charles served in the Pacific Theater before being demobilized. Back home, he enrolled in classes at Adelbert College, now Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and in 1948 graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology.
He later enrolled in the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin. He married Margaret Works in 1950 in the First Presbyterian Church, and the couple had a son, Charles Pearce, and three daughters, Ellen Caruso, Emily Gibbs and Margaret Hoople.
The church was a vital part of Gibbs’ life in Salem, and Charles served as a deacon and administrator, and as a member of the investment committee. He diversified into the community as a city councilor for 12 years and as chairman of the city’s finance committee.
For 17 years he was a member and chairman of the City Utilities Commission, from which he retired in 1991. He was also treasurer of the Salem Rotary Club, administrator of the Century House for senior men and women, member of Salem Golf Club, Salem Hall of Fame Selection Committee and Grandview Cemetery Board Member. President of RCG, a real estate development company, Charles was president of American Laundry and Dry-Cleaning Inc. and a member of the board of directors of Peoples Lumber Co. From 1987 to 1992, he was senior vice president of Firestone Bank of Lisbon.
When Charles retired from the alumni association in 2002, he left a wise investment portfolio and a wonderful legacy. The $ 1,000 bond purchased by former students in 1904, the principal of the first transaction, had grown to over $ 5 million.
On May 22, 2021, the Salem High School Alumni Association awarded 96 scholarships totaling $ 375,250 to 47 Salem High School graduates and 41 post-secondary students. Since 1908, more than $ 8.3 million in scholarships have been awarded to 2,456 recipients. The Salem High School Alumni Association Board of Directors thanks Charles Gibbs and posthumously thanks him for his exceptional work.
– Courtesy of the Salem High School Alumni Association.