Las Vegas, NM — Don Gibson, physical education teacher, athletic director and legendary Highlands University football and basketball coach from 1953 to 1964, passed away in Lakewood Ranch, Florida, on Jan. 20, 2019, at the age of 94. His ashes were placed at the Leveo and Patricia Sanchez Family Stadium at New Mexico Highlands University.
In attendance were Lionel Taylor, who was a receiver for the Denver Broncos, and Perry Harper, center and linebacker, who both played for Highlands under Don Gibson. President Minner told Mrs. Gibson that he would be providing a memorial plaque on the spot once he receives approval on the design.
Gibson was known to have a profound impact on his players. In particular, he broke ground by recruiting the first African American athletes to the university, advocating fiercely for their equal treatment in a time before desegregation was widespread.
In 2010, former football player and 1960 biology graduate Jim Long established the Don Gibson Scholarship for Highlands University scholar athletes in good academic standing. Three years later, the Coach Don Gibson H-Club Athletic Hall of Honor was dedicated to the beloved coach.
Gibson once said, “Coaching is teaching in its highest form — teaching not only of athletic skills, but ethics, morals, sportsmanship, loyalty, courage, cooperation, poise, self-control, confidence and the will to win.”
As the ashes were poured, Taylor said, “Head up and tail down,” in honor of what the coach would tell him during practice.