By Olivia House '18
A corporate powerhouse.
A community leader.
An engaged philanthropist.
Kathy Buckman Gibson ’80 is a St. Mary’s girl through and through. She’s a pillar in the Memphis and global business communities and a leader of many philanthropic endeavors. Gibson serves as the president and CEO of KBG Technologies, LLC, a company she founded that distributes chemical products and technologies for the pulp and paper industry. This spring, the Alumnae Board recognized Gibson as the 2022 Outstanding Alumna.
Gibson credits St. Mary’s for inspiring her success and confident spirit as a young woman. The school’s teachers and leaders “had a heritage of encouraging students to find their own voice and independence, instilling the belief that they could do anything they wanted to do with their lives.”
Rooted in St. Mary’s culture of academic excellence, Gibson earned a law degree and Master of Business Administration from Emory University after completing her undergraduate career at Duke University. She then began practicing law at Smith, Gambrell & Russell in Atlanta.
In 1993, Gibson returned to Memphis to work for Buckman, her family’s chemical manufacturing business, where she held multiple positions over the years, including general counsel, corporate secretary, and director.
Returning home allowed Gibson to cherish her time with her grandmother. A philanthropist, a leader, and a champion of women’s educational rights, Mertie Buckman further instilled within Gibson the importance of finding one’s voice and digging deep within to find one’s passion. Mertie Buckman’s commitment to quality women’s education is visible on St. Mary’s campus, where the Buckman Performing & Fine Arts Center is named in honor of her generosity to the school.
Gibson’s grandmother inspired her philanthropic spirit and encouraged her to engage more deeply in her community. “It was never a question of whether I’d be involved in the community—it was just a matter of how,” Gibson said.
For Gibson, this “how” materialized as work in early childhood education with organizations like First 8 Memphis, a nonprofit dedicated to providing Shelby County children with quality education and childcare in the first eight years of life. Driven by gratitude for her St. Mary’s education, as well as her own experience of motherhood, Gibson invested her time, energy, and voice into childhood education in the Memphis community. She now serves as the chair of First 8 Memphis and on the boards of Seeding Success and Tennesseans for Quality Early Education.
Gibson’s passion for educational equality is fueled by her belief that “it’s a moral imperative for our city.” In her Alumnae Weekend Chapel speech, Gibson says, “There is no justifiable reason that a child in our community should not have the same quality of education that we receive here at St. Mary’s—no matter the zip code they are born in.”
While working at Buckman, Gibson combined her philanthropic spirit with her corporate prowess to lead the BuckmanCares initiative, fostering corporate social responsibility while creating volunteer efforts and philanthropic giving programs. Working in a male-dominated environment, Gibson faced the difficult reality of what it meant to be the only woman in the workplace and what it meant to voice her own opinions on matters of business.“It can be hard to stand up for what you believe when the tide is going out the other direction,” Gibson said.
During Alumnae Weekend, Gibson shared that the drive and confidence she gained at St. Mary’s pushed her to embrace her position as a woman in business and to trust the merit of her voice.
“Like the leaders of this school over generations, you persevere in advocating for what you believe is important for a path forward, and you have faith that it will one day be possible. You search for open doors, and then you find the courage to walk through them,” she said.
Her perseverance, courage, and drive further propelled Gibson into an incredible and successful business career full of honors, accolades, and awards. In 2018, Gibson founded KBG Technologies. In 2019, the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry named Gibson Woman of the Year, and Leadership Memphis honored her as a Change Maker for the City of Memphis. Additionally, Gibson’s corporate achievements recently landed her a spot on Memphis Business Journal’s Power 100 List.
A former St. Mary’s Board of Trustees member, Gibson now serves her city as a board member for the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis, National Civil Rights Museum, and as a member of the Chairman’s Circle of the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce. Gibson and her husband, J.W., are the parents of Alicia and Savannah Gibson.
An inspiration to St. Mary’s girls both past and present, Kathy Buckman Gibson ’80 continues to shine brightly in all areas of her life.
Olivia House ’18 attended Rhodes College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience. At Rhodes, she was a member of the Women’s Soccer team.