Ken Gibb Memorial Endowment Launches

Submitted by the Orcas Island Community Foundation.

The Orcas community lost a remarkable man this summer. Ken Gibbs was a brilliant scientist, a kind neighbor, a dedicated volunteer and a delightful friend to so many. In honor of his life on Orcas, his wife Lynnette Wood has established the Ken Gibbs Memorial Endowment at the Orcas Island Community Foundation. This fund is dedicated to supporting science programming through the Orcas Island Public Library. The annual distributions will be used to purchase scientific books and equipment, fund science-specific events such as the traveling Pacific Science Center Mobile exhibit, and help spark a passion for science for future generations.

The Orcas Island Community Foundation has secured a matching gift for this fund. Every dollar donated will be matched up to $25,000. Donations can be made online at or mailed to OICF at PO Box 1496, Eastsound, WA 98245.

Ken’s impact on the Library is immeasurable, and this fund will help ensure the Library can continue its mission to support all learners on the island by maintaining strong collections, online resources, and services. “Our outreach to and support for Orcas Island youth is critical, and we are proud to steward this fund to the benefit of our community, in Ken’s memory,” states Library Director Ingrid Mattson. “He led The Friends of Orcas Island Library for years, and he is sorely missed in our library.”

FOIL, the nonprofit that supports and cooperates with the library in developing services for the community through fundraising and outreach, benefited from Ken’s wisdom and leadership for many years. In expressing support for this fund, the FOIL Board of Directors stated, “While Ken may have seemed to many as a man of few words, he was indeed a formidable man of action. As the President of The Friends of Orcas Island Library, he was not only a leader but a driving force. He would let nothing go by undone, even if he had to do it himself. As Ken was a tireless volunteer for the Library and FOIL, his passion for life’s experiences and scientifically-minded education pervaded all. We will endeavor to make Ken’s passions and contributions live on, not merely in memoriam but in our mission and duties to FOIL.”

Ken became interested in science at a very early age. His interest became a lifelong passion that led to expanding our knowledge of the universe. Ken developed a technique that permanently propelled the study and research of very high-energy gamma-ray astronomy. Prior to Gibbs’ discovery, gamma-ray astronomy had not yet been recognized as a viable field of study, only as a subset of cosmic ray physics. He developed a noise reduction technique that significantly increased the ability to detect gamma rays and, by applying an imaging procedure to the atmospheric Cerenkov technique (a technique by which VHE gamma rays are observed), Gibbs confirmed that the Crab Nebula was an emitter of such rays, marking the first time an astrophysical object was confirmed to emit VHE gamma rays. This discovery firmly established gamma-ray astronomy as a field of study in its own right.

Ken would have loved the idea of igniting this passion in others. The Ken Gibbs Memorial Fund will make that possible.