PULLMAN, Wash. — Weldon B. “Hoot” Gibson, founding chairman of the Washington State University Foundation and recipient of the university’s highest alumni award, died May 6. The Stanford, Calif., resident was hospitalized since April 26 after suffering a heart attack. He was 84.
In 1947, Gibson was one of the first people to join the Stanford Research Institute, a new nonprofit research organization now known as SRI International, as director of economics research and chair of international programs. For 40 years, he played a key role in SRI’s growth in size and worldwide prominence. He was named SRI’s senior director in 1982 and senior director emeritus in 1988.
In connection with SRI’s worldwide operations, he traveled extensively. He originated the International Industrial Conference, a major meeting of world business leaders held every four years in San Francisco. He also founded the Pacific Basin Economic Council.
During World War II, he served with the U.S. Air Force as director of materiel requirement and attained the rank of colonel before returning to civilian life. In 1946, he received the U.S. Medal of the Legion of Merit. The following year, he was awarded the Order of Commander of the British Empire.
Gibson came to WSU from Eldorado, Texas, at the urging of his uncle and legendary Cougar baseball coach Arthur “Buck” Bailey. He earned a degree in business administration at what was then Washington State College in 1938 and completed master’s and doctoral degrees in international economics at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business in 1940 and 1950, respectively.
During his undergraduate days at Pullman, Gibson was a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity and the Cougar football team.
He received WSU’s Alumni Achievement Award in 1971 and was named a Regents’ Distinguished Alumnus, the highest alumni honor the university bestows, in 1979. He was the 11th of 30 individuals to be so recognized since 1962. He was the initial recipient of the WSU Foundation’s Weldon B. Gibson Distinguished Volunteer Award in 1983. The annual award now bears his name. In 1996, the Weldon B. Gibson Conference Room in the Lighty Student Services Building at WSU was named for him.
His other awards include the Silver Anniversary All-American Award by Time-Life International in 1963.
Gibson was author or co-author of several books dealing with economic geography and international economics. He also wrote two books on the history of SRI International. In 1989, the WSU Press published “Buck Bailey: The Making of a Legend,” Gibson’s biography of his uncle.
Gibson is survived by his wife of 60 years, Helen Mears Gibson. She is a 1937 art graduate of Stanford University and has painted scenes of the WSU campus, including Bryan Hall and the Lewis Alumni Centre. Other survivors include a son, David, a figurative and landscape artist in New York, and one grandson. Arthur, another son, died in 1962 at age 19.
Over the years, the Gibsons have been generous WSU supporters, achieving Laureate status in 1995 for gifts totaling more than $1 million.