B. Gibby ’36 helped create and distribute a fifth-grade
curriculum unit on George Washington.
impersonator William Sommerfield, an honorary member of the
Class of 1936, leads the Old Guard at the P-rade last month.
(Beverly Schaefer (left); Kevin Birch)
Teaching George Washington Robert Budd Gibby ’36 helps educate youth
B. Gibby ’36 and George Washington have some things in common.
They both lay claim to the title of “president” —
Washington of the country, and Gibby of the Class of 1936. They
share agricultural leanings — Washington was a farmer, and
Gibby has carried on Washington’s tradition at Princeton.
He spearheaded the establishment of the Washington Memorial Garden
behind Maclean House in 1999, complete with plants descended from
those growing at Mount Vernon.
And both men have created lasting legacies. To ensure that all
public school students in the United States learn about their first
president, Gibby, working with the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association,
created in 1989 a fifth-grade curriculum unit featuring a 30-minute
video, The Life of George Washington, narrated by Bill Bradley ’65.
Every elementary school with a fifth grade throughout the nation
is now provided with the video, courtesy of Mount Vernon.
Gibby’s fascination with the founding father began in 1949,
Gibby says, when he started collecting historic prints of Washington.
Over the years, his hobby grew to include more than 200 prints,
paintings, and etchings. Gibby regularly lectured on the prints
and the person they portray. He donated his collection to Mount
Vernon in 1984.
Around that time, Gibby became aware of the lack of in-depth information
on Washington’s life in elementary school textbooks. So he
joined forces with Mount Vernon to develop the fifth-grade curriculum.
He organized fundraising efforts to support the making of the video
and its distribution to every state. While teachers are not obligated
to use the video, most do. Princeton alumni contributed to the effort
to fund the project, he says, with the Class of 1936 footing the
bill for Washington State. “It’s important that the
youth know about the honesty, integrity, and moral character exemplified
by George Washington,” says Gibby, who owned an office furniture
business based in New York City and today lives in Hightstown, N.J.
Gibby’s passion for Washington seems to have permeated the
Class of 1936. The class donated the Washington Memorial Garden
to the University, and William Sommerfield, of Philadelphia, who
is known as the historical interpreter of George Washington, is
an honorary member of the class. Sommerfield led the Old Guard at
the P-rade this year.
It’s not just the youth that Gibby seeks to educate, however.
He wants his fellow alumni to realize Washington’s connection
with Old Nassau. In 1777 Gen. Washington drove the British from
Nassau Hall, and in 1783 he met with the Continental Congress in
Nassau Hall and attended Commencement.
“Washington had a greater relationship with Princeton than
with any other university in the United States,” says Gibby.
By Hilary Parker ’01
Hilary Parker ’01 is a freelance writer in Princeton.