ST. PETERSBURG – The Gibbs High School community is rallying around their beloved principal Rueben Hepburn as he recovers in the hospital from a serious bout of pneumonia. More than 30 students, alumni and staffers gathered in the auditorium Tuesday evening to pray for his speedy recovery.
“Continue the prayers, pray for him,” said Ija Hawthorne, principal of the Business, Economics, Technology, Academy program at Gibbs. “You can never have too many prayers and not just for him but for the students…Pray for the school and the community as a whole.”
Hepburn was the principal at Dunedin High School before being transferred to Gibbs halfway through the 2014-15 school year. Since his short time as a Gladiator, grades, attendance and morale have significantly changed for the better.
“I love Mr. Hepburn. He has changed my life. He has done so much for our school that has improved us,” said Alexandria Givins who first met Hepburn when she was in the 10th grade and is now a senior. “I know he’s a fighter and he won’t give up. I’m praying that I see him May 15.”
Hepburn is out of ICU, breathing on his own and is hoping to leave the hospital and go to a rehab in the next couple of days. In fact, he’s even been texting his staff.
“I understand him texting and inquiring about what’s going on,” said former Gibbs Principal Stephanie Adkinson. “I certainly hope he gets better soon. I know Gibbs needs him and misses him.”
Ardent alum Gwen Reese organized the prayer vigil. She said he’s a champion to the students and is an important part of the community.
“He feels that we’re his, and we feel that he’s ours,” said Reese.
A prayer vigil was held at a Dunedin church, but Reese felt it was important for South County to “join their heart and minds together and pray for his recovery, his complete healing and his return to Gibbs High School.”
Reverends Wayne Thompson, Watson Haynes and Deborah Green were all on hand to pray for his recovery.
“He’s out of the danger, but he’s not out of the woods,” said Reese. “That’s why it’ never too late to pray.”