Trustee Bibb thankful for gifts BGSU has given him

His love for Bowling Green State University comes in part from memorable experiences like rooting for the Falcons during football games.

He even met his wife, Marguerite, at a freshman welcoming event.

Leon Bibb is very thankful for what BGSU has given him, but it is probably the education and experience in journalism that shaped his success that he appreciates most. It is this appreciation that drives the Cleveland news anchor to work so hard for the university that helped mold his skills.

It is as if Bibb’s ambition is to repay the University for all it has done. Using the same talents that made him a successful journalist, Bibb is devoted to improving his alma mater in the hopes of enhancing its students’ educations.

“He is extremely committed to the University. He believes everyone should have access to education,” Sidney Ribeau, president of BGSU, said.

Bibb, who currently works as the weekend news anchor for Cleveland’s News Channel 5, can be seen on campus speaking and working with many student organizations. He is a member of the Board of Trustees until 2005 and has recently finished assisting in the creation of several nationally televised advertisements for BGSU.

“He has not only been a spokesperson for the University, he is also a civil leader,” Ribeau said.

The skills that Bibb uses to promote and improve the University emerged as early as middle school. His sixth-grade teacher entreated him to pursue a career in journalism after Bibb wrote the class theatrical production.

“He saw something in me, and advised me to go into a profession where I could write,” Bibb said.

“It is a gift,” the teacher told him. “Leon, use your gift.”

During his undergraduate years at the University, Bibb immersed himself in the campus radio station and also contributed briefly to the BG News.

Almost immediately after graduating in 1966, his talent was recognized by the most-read newspaper in Ohio. The young, Cleveland-born journalist was hired by the Cleveland Plain Dealer as a full-time reporter. It seemed like all of Bibb’s dreams were beginning to come true.

Unfortunately, while Bibb was doing what he loved, one of the most controversial wars in American history was being fought almost 3,000 miles away. Vietnam was in full swing and Uncle Sam needed a hand.

Bibb spent two years in Vietnam after he was drafted into the army during the height of the infamous war. It was there, amidst the death and destruction, that he discovered his true passion. While watching Armed Forces television, Bibb realized that broadcast journalism was his calling. All he needed to make his dream become a reality was to survive and acquire a master’s degree.

“I applied for grad school [at BGSU] in the jungles of Nam,” he said, laughing.

As a graduate student at the University, Bibb learned the intricacies of broadcast journalism and taught undergraduates as part of his fellowship. During one semester, Bibb and his students developed an entire 30 minute news program for WBGU-TV.

Following his 1972 graduation, Bibb acquired a job at News Channel 4 in Columbus. The job came to him almost by accident after he picked up a hitchhiker who he recognized from working for a television station in Toledo. The hitchhiker, who also recognized Bibb, said that his sister worked for News Channel 4 and she wanted to hire Bibb as a news anchor. Three weeks later, Bibb became the first African-American, prime-time news anchor in Ohio.

“I felt like I was Jackie Robinson,” he said. “If I did well, maybe other people could do well, too.”

When Bibb first attended BGSU, African-American journalists had virtually no employment opportunities in their profession. After he began working in Columbus, however, the civil rights movement was everywhere and news media all over the country needed African-Americans to cover stories in African-American neighborhoods.

Barriers to African-American progress were still highly prevalent, though, and Bibb knew he had to stay on top of his game in order to make it as a journalist.

“If I didn’t get in, it was not going to be because I wasn’t prepared,” he said.

His preparation would eventually pay off when his accomplishments gave him the opportunity to interview some of the most famous and infamous people in modern history, from President George H. W. Bush during promotions for his drug policy, to the Ku Klux Klan in the midst of a Columbus riot.

Bibb spoke nostalgically about his copious interviewing career.

He laughed as he discussed asking the final question during a press conference with Neil Armstrong, 10 years after he walked on the moon. Bibb asked Armstrong if it was true that he bribed a guard at the Smithsonian Institution to sit in the plane that Charles Lindberg used in his historic flight from New York to Paris. Bibb then asked if Armstrong would also like to sit in the capsule that took him to the moon, which had just been placed in the Washington, D.C. museum.

After the audience and Armstrong stopped laughing, Armstrong told Bibb, “Yes it’s true, and yes I would.”

In 1978, Bibb interviewed James Earl Ray, the convicted assassin of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., in a Tennessee prison.

When asked if he had any difficulties interviewing a man hated by so many people, Bibb simply replied that he was a professional.

Bibb was also the mediator during a 1989 televised Cleveland mayoral debate between Mayor Michael White and the attorney and president of Cleveland’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, George Forbes.

Bibb prepared for three weeks to host the two-hour, live, uninterrupted debate.

“Not only was I the sole questioner, I was the third man in the ring keeping the conversations going, probing the issues and separating the candidates when separation was needed,” he said.

Bibb has received numerous honors for his abilities as a journalist including several Excellence in Journalism Awards from the Cleveland Press Club and an induction into the Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame. He also continuously perfects his dexterity as a writer with the many poems and short stories that he has published.

Bibb also has a love for the theater and has performed in many productions for the Karamu House, a Cleveland African-American theater. In October, Bibb performed in his own play titled, All the Things I Could Not Tell You on TV.

“He’s an extremely talented actor, although he doesn’t take as much credit for that as he should,” Ribeau said.

Leon Bibb has the opportunity to do what he loves. He was once quoted as saying, “I’m living my dream. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Perhaps this is why he continues to do so much for BGSU.

Kimberly McBroom, the director of marketing and communications for the University, recently completed work on a DVD with Bibb detailing BGSU’s progress over the years.

“He’s always available and he’s always willing to be helpful,” she said. “He is a standout in his ability to want to help.”

His commitment to BGSU has remained unchallenged throughout the years. Leon Bibb is living his dream and he continues to show his appreciation for the university that helped make that dream a reality.