Alumni Association President Bill McCloud has made it his mission to ensure that the community remembers the contributions of Gibbs Junior College.
ST. PETERSBURG — St. Petersburg College President Dr. Tonjua Williams recently presented her first President’s Award of Distinction to the Gibbs Junior College Alumni Association, celebrating its 65th anniversary. The award was given on Sept. 12 at the SPC Day celebration on the college’s St. Petersburg Gibbs Campus.
Gibbs Junior College was one of 12 colleges established by the state in the days before desegregation, opening on the campus of Gibbs High School in 1957. The college started with an enrollment of 245 students, but the numbers quickly grew, with many students riding buses from surrounding counties.
One of those students on the bus each day from Sarasota was St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch’s mother, Alletha. He shared her story with the SPC Day audience, noting that it was a two-hour ride each day that started early in the morning, as there was no bridge linking Sarasota/Manatee with Pinellas County. Mrs. Welch sacrificed to prepare herself for a good job, as so many Gibbs students did back then.
In 1964, the college was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and had grown to be the most popular of the state’s Black junior colleges. In 1965, the decision was made to merge Gibbs Junior College and the then-St. Petersburg Junior College, creating SPJC’s Gibbs Campus. By then, enrollment at Gibbs had increased to 901, with students coming from 46 Florida counties, nine states, the Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, and Africa.
While the Gibbs Campus (later called the Skyway Campus) was phased out of operation in 1967, that did not negate the impact Gibbs graduates were beginning to make in their community and beyond. These individuals had become doctors, lawyers, educators, business owners, ministers, and professional athletes.
In 1993, SPC’s St. Petersburg campus became the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus to honor the contributions that Gibbs Junior College had made to the college, Pinellas County education and the state of Florida.
As Gibbs alums grow older, it becomes more important to continue the legacy through SPC and today’s students. Alumni Association President Bill McCloud has made it his mission to ensure that the community remembers the contributions of Gibbs Junior College.
Serving in his leadership role since 2006, McCloud has sponsored scholarships and works to keep members engaged by having events like the alumni association’s 14th annual golf tournament, held Sept. 10, and fostering “connection groups” throughout the state. The alumni association has approximately 100 members across Florida and the country.
The alumni association also helps to keep Gibbs Junior College’s memory alive through scholarship opportunities for SPC students. Since the inception of the Gibbs Junior College Alumni Association scholarship, 124 scholarships have been awarded.
“The community can help by continuing to encourage young people to seek education at SPC, to understand the role that Gibbs has played in the community, and to continue to make a difference in the lives of others,” said McCloud.
“I like to call it the dash. Every life has a beginning and an end that we don’t have control over. What we do have control of is the in-between, how we interact with our families and our community, and what we can do to make education a focal point during the dash is key.”