Longtime colleagues:
Gibson and Grady go way back


By Annette Randall

From selling funeral plots to pay the rent in college to writing radio and TV spots for an ad agency in Virginia, Gerald Gibson, an assistant professor in the School of Communications, brings a unique blend of experience to the classroom. But one of the few constants in the past 30 years of Gibson's life has been his friendship with Don Grady, associate professor in the School of Communications.

"In my life there are only two people I've known and seen for the past 30 years, and I'm married to the other," Gibson says.

The early years Grady and Gibson first met at WKNC, North Carolina State University's campus radio station, where Grady was the program manager. "Don is the guy who put me on the air," Gibson says.

Their friendship grew and they decided to room together their senior year. "We were the perfect roommates," Gibson says. "Between classes and work we didn't see each other much." The two were some of the first students to major in communications at NCSU. "They were creating the program as we went along," Gibson says. "I remember you never knew what classes you'd be taking the next year."

After graduation, Gibson faced double-digit employment rejections by radio stations. Finally on the 25th try, he landed a job as a disc jockey. "It's a lesson in perseverance, I like to think," Gibson says with a laugh.

Both men worked in radio and television broadcasting before moving on to graduate school and eventually teaching. Despite their separation, Gibson and Grady managed to stay in touch.

"The industry kept bringing us back together," Grady says. Since the communications field is small, Grady says he and Gibson often caught up at conventions and similar events.

Tag-team teaching

Gibson came to Elon first. As he finished his master's degree at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, he received a phone call from Elon officials who wanted him to fill a one-year teaching position in 1979. One year turned into six.

In 1985, his wife's employer transferred his family to Virginia. Before he left, Gibson recommended his former roommate for the open position.

Meanwhile, Grady had been an instructor and director of public speaking at NCSU for five years. He taught at Central Carolina Community College for a year before coming to Elon in 1985 to fill the position left by Gibson.

By the time Gibson returned to Elon in 1988 after working for several advertising and public relations firms in Virginia, Grady was serving his second year as the first communications department chair. He continued to chair the department for the next five years.

From the ground up

From their days as students navigating the maze of a developing communications program at NCSU, Gibson and Grady became part of a team that pioneered what is now Elon1s second largest academic program. Along with Ray Johnson, assistant professor in the School of Communications, they were Elon1s first communications professors. Gibson still remembers teaching his first television production course without equipment.

"We're sort of the old guys," Gibson says.

"The two of us have taught just about everything [in the School of Communications], especially Gerald because of his eclectic background," Grady says.

During their years at Elon, both Grady and Gibson have held several roles at the university. Each has served as adviser to the student radio station, WSOE, and both have worked as internship coordinator for the School of Communications.

Gibson and Grady both say that their ability to stay in touch after 30 years is special given the transient nature of society, where people lose touch as they change positions and move to different areas of the country.

"When I go back and look at wedding photos, and I see Don, it means a lot," Gibson says. "I can see [Don] and I meeting for breakfast in Hillsborough after we retire."

(This article, written by communications/journalism major Annette Randall, was originally published in @Elon, the Elon University employee newsletter.)



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