For many years, members of the Salem High School Alumni Association would gather around cups of coffee in the kitchens of members’ homes or after hours in offices as they worked to cover finances and make scholarship decisions for students.
This has always been the way they have been working since the first scholarship fund was created in 1903. Within four years, they had enough money to buy a $1,000 bond. Then in 1908, the $60 interest was awarded to Salem High School graduate, Walter French. The rule never touched the director, and as the years went by, the interest increased, and more and more scholarships were distributed to graduating seniors.
Both Charles Gibbs and Daniel E. Smith began their careers in Salem and were actively involved in the Society’s activities. Dan, a graduate of 1946, opened a jewelry store downtown. Charles, who graduated in 1943, started as a branch manager at First National Bank across the street from Dunn’s Store and advanced to assistant cashier and treasurer. He was promoted to Senior Vice President in 1972 and Executive Vice President and then President after Society Bank took over First National in 1984.
Investments and finances were of second nature to Charles, and in 1977 he accepted the position of Treasurer of the Scholarship and Society Committee and Chairman of the Investment Committee. He couldn’t have envisioned it at the time, but he would hold the position for 25 years until his retirement.
Record-keeping became more demanding and packing and unpacking the Society’s books from one meeting place to another was a chore. The permanent home was the solution, a base for the association, and a location where the alumni could gather when they wanted to organize reunions and meetings. For graduates who live out of town and out of town, the association office will be an ideal place for them to stop and visit when they are in town.
Dan Smith came up with the answer. Above his jewelry store was 1,200 square feet of vacant space which he and Charles thought would be ideal for the assembly’s first home. Dan offered housing to the association on a 15-year rent-free basis, and the two men cleaned years of cobwebs and dust and entered the association.
The main office was at the front of the quarters, and a meeting and exhibition room and a small kitchen were in the back. The office opened in the early summer of 1984, and by the end of the summer it was decorated with curtains, desks and chairs. A limited mailing invitation to 18 classes of Salem high school graduates brought an immediate response.
Charles’ service to the Society and his business acumen were recognized in 1986 when he was named Alumni of the Year. The association has been honoring distinguished alumni since 1958 when Fred E. Cobb of the class of 1925 received the award. Russell and Sarah Pierce Gibbs raised two daughters and two sons, Nanny Bennett and Elizabeth Thatcher, and Charles and his brother James.
After graduating from high school, he served in the Navy. World War II was ongoing, and Charles had served in the Pacific Theater before he was demobilized. Returning home, he took classes at Adelbert College, now Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and graduated in 1948 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology.
Later, he attended Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin. He married Margaret Works in 1950 at First Presbyterian Church, and the couple had a son, Charles Pearce, and three daughters, Elaine Caruso, Emily Gibbs, and Margaret Hubble.
The church was a vital part of Gibbs’ life in Salem, and Charles served as regent deacon and member of the investment committee. He branched out into the community as a 12-year city councilman and chairman of the city’s finance committee.
For 17 years he was a member and chair of the City Utilities Commission, retiring as president in 1991. He also served as treasurer of the Salem Rotary Club, a trustee of Century House for Seniors Men and Women, and is a member of the Salem Golf Team. club, selection committee for the Salem Hall of Fame, and member of the Grandview Cemetery board. President of RCG Real Estate Development, Charles was president of American Laundry and Dry-Cleaning Inc. A member of the Peoples Lumber Board of Directors from 1987 to 1992, he was Senior Vice President of Firestone Bank in Lisbon.
When Charles retired from the Alumni Association in 2002, he left a host of wise investments and an impressive legacy. The $1,000 bond purchased by alumni in 1904, the first transaction principle, grew to more than $5 million.
On May 22, 2021, the Salem High School Alumni Association awarded 96 scholarships totaling $375,250 to 47 Salem High School graduating students and 41 post-secondary students. Since 1908, more than $8.3 million in scholarships have been awarded to 2,456 recipients. The Board of Trustees of the Salem High School Alumni Association expresses its gratitude to Charles Gibbs and extends its posthumous thanks to him for his distinguished work.
Submitted with permission from the Salem High School Alumni Association.