Ron Gibbens, NDAD co-founder and board president, dies at 80

Posted: May 02 2021
NDAD mourns the passing Sunday morning, May 2, of Ron Gibbens, 80, its co-founder, retired chief executive officer and only board president in the charitable nonprofit’s nearly 46-year existence.

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

Inspired by Mike, their only child, 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.

Since its 1975 organization, NDAD since has 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. 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, several months shy of the Gibbens’ 50th wedding anniversary.

In 2015, Ron Gibbens relinquished his role as NDAD’s chief operating officer, to Don Santer. Gibbens retired in 2018 but continued his duties as board president.

"We will all miss a great human being who dedicated his career to helping others help themselves," Santer said. "His leadership and commitment to NDAD will not be forgotten."

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.

He also was one of the late 1970s founders and second president of the national Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), North Dakota’s delegate to the 1977 White House Conference on Handicapped Individuals, and a longtime board member of Development Homes Inc. He was named and honored as a Distinguished Alumni of Mayville (N.D.) State University in 2014.

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

Funeral services for Ron Gibbens are pending. A full obituary and more information about his life will be provided when available at and on NDAD’s social media pages.

Donna Hansen
Donna Hansen is on the move in retirement. Relaxing wasn’t her post-career goal. Finishing her 39th and final year in special education, though, proved more than a small challenge for the longtime Grand Forks special educator.   NDAD helped her move quickly to meet the challenge through its Healthcare Equipment Loan Program (HELP). While ...
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