Longtime CEO of North Dakota Association for the Disabled dies at 80

Sydney Mook, Grand Forks Herald
·2 min read

May 4—The co-founder, retired CEO and only board president in the nearly 46-year existence of the charitable nonprofit North Dakota Association for the Disabled has died at age 80.

Ron Gibbens died in hospice care Sunday, May 2, at the Grand Forks home of his son, Mike.

Inspired by Mike, who has cerebral palsy, Ron and Faye Gibbens built the charitable nonprofit North Dakota Association for the Disabled from an informal Grand Forks support group for parents of children with disabilities.

The organization began in 1975 and has since provided more than $60 million in program services for people with disabilities and health concerns from its offices in Grand Forks, Fargo, Minot and Williston, according to a news release. NDAD has charitable gaming operations and owns a for-profit business to generate the funds needed to support its charitable services statewide.

Faye Gibbens, who was NDAD's longtime program services leader, died in February 2014.

In 2015, Ron Gibbens handed his CEO role to Don Santer. Gibbens retired in 2018 but continued his duties as board president.

For 20 years starting in the late 1960s, the rural Cando, N.D., native worked at the University of North Dakota, including as an Upward Bound counselor, director of student opportunity programs and co-director of UND's student financial aid services.

Gibbens also helped found and was the second president of the national Association on Higher Education and Disability, served as North Dakota's delegate to the 1977 White House Conference on Handicapped Individuals, and was a longtime board member of Development Homes, Inc.

In 2014, he was honored as a distinguished alumni of Mayville State University.

In addition to his son, Ron Gibbens' survivors include his second wife, the former Pamela Cramer. They married in November 2014.

Services for Gibbens will be held Monday, May 10, at Sharon Lutheran Church in Grand Forks. Visitation will begin at 10 a.m., followed by the funeral at 11 a.m. A celebration of life gathering will follow at Southgate Casino Bar and Grill at 12:30 p.m. Burial is scheduled the following day at a rural Harlow, N.D., cemetery.