Alexander Severus Gibbons (1822-1912)

Alexander Severus Gibbons

Alexander Severus Gibbons was born in Harrisonburg, Virginia on September 9, 1822, the sixth child of twelve and third son born to John and Jane Elizabeth Keffer Gibbons. Known to his family and friends as "Sandy," he attended the Dickinson Grammar School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania before enrolling in Dickinson College proper in 1842 with the class of 1846. While at the College he was a solid student and was elected as a member of Union Philosophical Society. He graduated with his class in 1846 and went on to medical school at the University of Maryland, receiving his degree in 1849. He had been developing his faith since college days, however, and soon after completing his medical studies became a minister in the Baltimore Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

After three years of work in the area the Conference served, he was accepted in 1852 to serve as a missionary in burgeoning, post--goldrush northern California. After two years in that work, he took a position as professor of mathematics at the University of the Pacific, a new Methodist College located near San Jose, California, chartered in 1851. Gibbons' old College president John Price Durbin was actually involved in the establishment of the college in his new role as the Corresponding Secretary of the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1857, Gibbons was unanimously elected president of Pacific and was president when the first regular college class graduated in 1858. Following disagreements with the board of trustees over financial matters and a denied leave of absence to attend to his wife’s ill mother, Gibbons resigned in 1859 and returned to Virginia. He taught at the Ohio State University in Athens, Ohio from 1864 until 1872 when the University of the Pacific asked him to resume the office of president. His second term lasted for five years before he declined re-election to return briefly to his less burdensome role as a professor at the college in 1878. Returning to the pulpit under the direction of the California Conference working mostly in northern California in places like Contra Costa County. In 1902 he took a position as superintendent of Arizona missions but retired in 1904, living in Pacific Grove in Monterey County.

Gibbons had married Sarah E. Cloud of Front Royal, Virginia on March 28, 1852 and the couple had seven children, three boys and four girls. His sister Fanny had married fellow Dickinsonian, Methodist minister, and Virginian Benjamin Abrogast of the class of 1854. Alexander Severus Gibbons died in northern California on March 28, 1912 and was buried in Oakland. He was eighty-nine years old.


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Dickinson College Archives
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