Had you been a student in Rome between 2018 and 2021, you would have had the immense privilege of interacting with the Director of Student Affairs, Ben Gibbs, and his radiant wife, Annie Gibbs.
Famous for his succinct itinerary communications in Rome at our mandatory Monday night meetings — “I have 35 things to say, it’ll take eight minutes” — Ben’s popularity with the student body was only rivaled by the respect his wife commanded with her quiet elegance as she floated about campus, impeccably dressed and full of smiles. She was akin to a nymph of the vineyard, if you pardon my flair for the dramatic.
Annie’s role in Rome was a “catch-all” position. She organized guest visits, helped direct the summer programs, worked in campus ministry, helped organize the President’s Tours, and a million other things. Ben said of Annie’s position, “Here’s somebody that’s competent, let’s just give her everything that no one else can seem to do.”
Annie said she enjoyed the position, as she wanted to get some exposure to students and the community, and that was her favorite part of the whole Rome experience.
Fortunately, we did not completely lose our dynamic duo after they returned from Rome. Ben now serves as Special Assistant to the President at UD while Annie works elsewhere as an accountant.
In an interview, Ben and Annie shared more about their own experience at the University of Dallas, stretching all the way back to Phil and Eth freshman year in Carpenter #232 — yes, they remember the exact room number — where they first met.
Thus began their UD romance, which saw them dating by the end of fall semester freshman year, ring by spring at graduation, and married in April of 2016 on Tax Day. What a day to commemorate a wedding, right?
Ben revealed he liberated a brick from the ruins of Carpenter Hall. “Before they demolished [Carpenter Hall] I took a piece of the wall with me.” Cue sighs of “Awwww”. It currently resides in a box in their apartment, awaiting adequate display space.
When asked about their favorite UD traditions, Groundhog was mentioned, but Ben said his favorite memories revolved around athletics. “There were a couple of games where Blue Crew got a ton of people there … and the energy was incredible.” On Charity Week, Ben said, “I got killed on the first day of Chaos all four years, so I wasn’t any good at that.”
Ben originally hails from Flower Mound, TX while Annie had a longer journey from Phoenix, AZ. Both Ben and Annie started their undergrad at UD in 2011 and graduated in 2015. Ben has worked at UD for over six years while Annie worked at UD for the three years they spent in Rome.
During undergrad, Ben had worked for a couple of nonprofits. That combined with his general knowledge of UD made him an excellent candidate for a job in the Office of Advancement. He took the position at the end of 2015 and has had various jobs at the university ever since.
When I asked Ben what kept him coming back to UD, he revealed he always wanted to be a professor. However, when that option didn’t pan out, Ben reflected on some advice he had received from a faculty member: “There are other ways you can work in higher education and serve students and serve faculty, and being a professor is one tremendous way to do that, but there are other opportunities.” He continues to serve as such in a variety of positions here at UD.
My prevailing take away from the time I spent with Ben and Annie is that the UD community possesses the unique capability of teaching, executing, and solidifying the fundamental human desire to pursue a purpose greater than yourself. Lofty language, I know, but sit with that for a moment.
Look around at your friends, your professors, and your administration and take a moment to reflect on the community that comprises this university. Why do we keep coming back? Why are there so many families who for generations upon generations have sent their children to UD? Why are our professors predominantly permanent fixtures in the shadowy, dim-lit hallways of Braniff? Why do young people like Ben and Annie Gibbs choose to return to the university upon a hill, even after the completion of their education?
Ben answered as such: “We want to be of service to something excellent, and worthwhile, and good … All of that [work] is a sacrifice for something greater than yourself, I mean, there are worse things in life to strive to.”
Call this article the nostalgic meanderings of a graduating senior if you want, but I think there is much to be learned by examining what UD has done, is doing, or will do for you instead of barrelling blindly through these four years. Gratitude looks good on everyone.