Pioneering Environmental Engineer, Clean Water Advocate Gibbs Dies at 87

Charles Virgil “Tom” Gibbs, of Seattle, a clean water advocate whose passion for protecting the environment through engineering dated to the early 1950s, notably overseeing many water and wastewater projects for CH2M Hill, has died at 87.

Photo of Charles Virgil “Tom” Gibbs

Milwaukee and Seattle were the main beneficiaries of his dedicated work in environmental sustainability. Gibbs received a commendation from President Nixon for exceptional service to environmental protection in 1971.

Gibbs, P.E., F.ASCE, spent nearly 23 years of his career with CH2M Hill (now Jacobs), where he held many senior roles, including director, contract procurer, project manager and business development director. He was the first vice president from outside the organization, helping to win several large projects on the West Coast and in the Midwest. In charge of public agencies, a sizable and diverse staff, and eventually the entire firm’s water practice, Gibbs led efforts in Milwaukee to abate water pollution and in Seattle to win the design jobs for seven secondary treatment plants discharging into Puget Sound.

Gibbs was known for his community service activities, such as with the Seattle Chamber of Commerce. In 1969, he led in the formation of the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies, now the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, and served as its first president.

In 2005 he and his wife, Jean, endowed an environmental engineering fellowship at the University of Washington. The fellowship is designed to support graduate-level studies for engineers from developing countries who will return home to help develop clean water and functioning sanitation systems for rural populations in those countries.

Gibbs was known for his love of baseball, to the point that a year before retiring, he was named by the governor of Washington state to a state board that oversaw development of a new Major League Baseball stadium. In this role, he led efforts to site, design and build Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners.

Gibbs joined ASCE in 1954, was honored with the Society’s Wesley Horner Award in 1974, and became a Life Member in 1996.  He also received APWA’s Charles Walter Nichols Award and Top Ten Public Works Men of the Year, and the Seattle Downtown Association’s New Look Award for the Metro Transit’s successful implantation. He was also named the 1985 Engineer of the Year by Consulting Engineers Council of Washington.


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