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Albert E. Gibbons

Submitted by Veronica Gonzalez, Chair of the Wrentham School Committee.

Have you ever wondered where Gibbons Lane got its name? If you’ve set foot in the Delaney School gymnasium any time over the last 20 years, you may have made the connection. Now known as the Gibbons Gym, there is a bronze plaque on the wall next to the gymnasium entrance honoring longtime Wrentham educator and sports aficionado Al Gibbons.

Mr. Gibbons started his career in Wrentham at the Old Center School in 1964, when he was hired to teach 5th grade. He was immediately well liked for his warm smile, outgoing personality, and ability to make a connection with just about anyone with whom he engaged in conversation. Al was the type of teacher who set the bar high and, because of his ability to connect with his students, they unhesitantingly found ways to meet and exceed it. One former student recalled a memory of Al…”I had surgery and could not go to school, as I was wheelchair bound and I had to have a tutor. As a child, I didn’t care for Mr. G, as he had given me a D in history the previous semester. Well, when it came time for the tutor to come to my house, guess who it was? Yup, Mr. Gibbons. Suddenly, I had to put the work in and my grade went from a D to an A in history. Go figure ... I liked him after that!”

After six years of teaching 5th and 6th grade, Al went into administration. He served as assistant principal for 18 months before becoming principal of the Wrentham Elementary School - a title he held for nearly 30 years. As such, he became legendary for his incredible people skills and making every employee feel welcomed, appreciated, and part of the WPS family. As new employees were hired, Al would give a multi-hour tour of both the school and the town itself, dropping in every single teacher’s classroom to make introductions and then driving around Wrentham in his station wagon for a guided tour, proudly sharing landmarks and miscellaneous bits of information about the town. These tours, a right of passage for new employees, became epically famous and are still fondly remembered by WPS staff members today. A former employee once joked about the length and detail of Al’s tours, saying he was expecting to be dropped off at Wrigley Field by the end of it. Al found tremendous pride in giving educators the full picture of our wonderful community, boasting about the local sports, and ensuring his staff understood the diverse backgrounds of their students.

In addition to making his mark in the Wrentham Public Schools as an educator, Mr. Gibbons started traditions for the students that live on today. An avid sports fan, he recognized the value in team-based activities and often encouraged all students to participate in one way or another. He created the Wrentham Little League program, which still runs strong today with multiple teams at every grade level. Additionally, many WPS students over the years have enjoyed the After School Basketball program, thanks to him. This winter program provides all Roderick students, regardless of skill or experience, an opportunity to participate in an after school sport in a welcoming, inclusive environment at an affordable price. Something many sixth graders look forward to each year with great anticipation is the annual camping trip to Nature’s Classroom, initiated by Mr. Gibbons in 1972. He loved that students had an opportunity to learn in an outdoor team-building environment, stay overnight with peers in cabins, and participate in educational activities that also helped enhance life skills.

Mr. Gibbons retired from teaching in 2001 and sadly died only two years later. Al built a sense of community among his staff and modeled a “family first” philosophy that encouraged teachers and staff members to work together, be their best, enjoy what they do, and support one another. His kindness was felt by everyone. Staff members at the Delaney and Roderick schools still reminisce about him today and carry on some of the traditions he instilled during his tenure in Wrentham. One staff member reflected, “Al started a tradition of going out for lunch at Luciano’s on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. In fact, he introduced me to my first nutty Irishman! Many of us still carry on that tradition in his honor and, when we do, we still toast him to this day.”

Another notable Wrentham educator and icon, Bill Rice, had some memories of Al Gibbons to share. “Many of the things that I did as an administrator were things I learned from Al. Al loved his friends and he loved to organize trips to Red Sox and Celtics games. I participated in a number of his annual Patriot's Day trips to Boston to see the Red Sox and the finish of the Boston Marathon. We also shared Boston College football tickets for a number of years. Al was loyal to his friends. Al's career could be best described as he did it "his way."

Former Senator Richard Ross (RJ Ross Funeral Home) was a student of Mr. Gibbons while at the Old Center School. In Mr. Ross’ words, “I think the town of Wrentham owes a lot of what its school system is to the kind of culture he brought. He created a sense of security, safety, and inclusiveness that you don't find in other school systems.”

How fortunate are we, as Wrentham residents, to have such an outstanding school system that has only continued to flourish due in large part to the foundation, traditions, and culture that educational leaders like Al Gibbons brought to our town!


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