Skip to main content


As an Auburn student in the 1960s, Bill Edwards ’69 spent countless hours in the Ralph B. Draughon Library.

The library and its staff were critical resources as he studied history and competed on the debate team, and later, pursued a master’s degree in speech communication at Auburn.

As he moved on to Southern Illinois University to earn a doctorate in speech communication, his experience there solidified his view on how integral libraries had been in his schooling.

“A lot of my education took place in libraries as opposed to the classroom,” Edwards said. “As great as my teachers were, the research that I was doing in the library was definitely much more expansive and very important as I pursued my career.”

Following his education, Edwards spent more than 40 years on the faculty at Columbus State University in Georgia, teaching and researching interpersonal and intercultural communication before retiring in 2015. As the years advanced, he saw firsthand how libraries changed from one of the primary sources of information to one of many sources.

“One thing that became very apparent was that the internet – the digital revolution – was changing the nature of what the modern library needed to be,” Edwards said.

With an eye to the future, Edwards felt strongly about supporting Auburn University Libraries in their bid to serve faculty and students in the digital age and beyond. It was why he designated a portion of his Individual Retirement Account (IRA) to come to Auburn University Libraries after his lifetime – known as a planned or deferred gift.

As Edwards was deciding whether his planned gift should support an existing endowment or create a new one, he discovered the Robert C. Gibbs Endowed Fund for Excellence.

The endowment was created by the Gibbs family in memory of Robert, a longtime Draughon Library staff member who served Auburn from 1968-1992. The fund supports collection development and the acquisition of information resources needed by the libraries.

It was the perfect fit for Edwards and his philanthropic goals. He was intrigued by the prospect of supporting an endowment that honored an Auburn man like Gibbs, who had served as head of public services, reference and collections before becoming assistant university librarian.

Edwards also had the chance to speak with Nancy, Robert’s wife, and discuss their shared vision for the role of libraries.

“Talking with her, I understood why that endowment had been organized the way it was, and I was particularly happy to join the Gibbs family in supporting it,” he said.

Edwards knows the digital revolution will continue to evolve, changing the way we access information. With that, he also believes the role of library staff will become even more important.

“All these resources available on the internet are wonderful, but the real value of libraries and librarians is the ability to make sure that the best material is readily available to their patrons,” Edwards said. “You still need these experts who select and organize the most credible materials. That’s what I see libraries being about.”

For more information about making a planned gift, contact or 334-844-7375.