Kathy Buckman Gibson '80

President and CEO of KBG Technologies, LLC

After graduating from St. Mary’s, Kathy attended Duke University and then Emory University where she pursued joint Law and MBA degrees. She loved practicing corporate law in Atlanta, but her father wanted her to come home to the family business in Memphis.  “He kept offering made-up jobs, but finally he made me an offer to come back to the company as General Counsel. I said, ‘Now that’s a real job and one that I might be interested in’! So that brought me back to Memphis and back to Buckman.” For the next 25 years, Kathy worked at Buckman Laboratories International, Inc., first as General Counsel and then as President and Chief Operating Officer.

Recently, however, Kathy decided the time was right for a new career. In 2017, Kathy retired as COO, became Chairman of the Board of Directors of Buckman International, and founded KBG Technologies, LLC. KBG Technologies answers the need of Kathy’s customers for chemicals beyond what Buckman traditionally offers. Kathy provides specialty and commodity chemicals that are used in treating water in the industrial process of making paper, from tissue to packaging to writing paper. In addition to chemicals, KGB also provides smart technology – equipment and sensors that help people make better decisions on what chemistry to apply and how. “I have always enjoyed spending time with customers, and I relish the combination of the services that we offered at Buckman and the interface with the customer. This business puts me squarely in that realm more so than I used to be. It is nice to spend time where I really enjoy spending time. Being an entrepreneur is different than working in a well-established business – it’s challenging, frustrating, liberating.”

Kathy’s goal? “I want to be the premier woman-owned chemical supplier to the paper and water treatment industry in North America.”

Kathy mission? “As the mother of twins, I was fortunate to watch my daughters blossom at a great pre-school. Seeing that was an amazing experience as a parent, and I became passionate that all children in our community should have the same opportunity to be in a high-quality educational environment from the time they’re born.” She wishes people understood the importance of a child’s early years for future education and development. “By the time a child is three,” Kathy explained, “the many neuron pathways responsible for a healthy, functioning adult are connected. What excites me about our community is that our city and county governments, along with a whole host of organizations, are coming together and joining hands around this work. Because of that, I am confident we will move the dial, and it is about moving the dial! If we do not, we are wasting time and money. We cannot move it fast enough. People need to be aware of how important this is.”

The goal of Shelby County early childhood advocates, including Kathy, is that, by 2025, 90% of Shelby County children will be kindergarten-ready when they go to kindergarten, and that 90% of our kids will read at a 3rd-grade level while in 3rd grade. “We are a ways away – we are at about 27% for the reading, and for kindergarten readiness, we are at about 51%, which is a nice improvement from 38% four years ago.” Kathy’s excitement is palpable when she talks about the future. “We have secured commitment for funding pre-k classrooms for every child who would qualify as needs-based in Shelby County. We have raised the $16.6 million needed, and I’m pretty excited about that.”

Kathy is thankful to St. Mary’s for providing the foundation on which she draws today. “A big part of what St. Mary’s gives you is confidence. From the time you leave SMS, at various stages of life, you realize you had such a good education; the quality of the education is so high. It carries over into everything you do at college and continues to build from there. I also appreciate the opportunities for the girls to tap into who they really are and to grow on that foundation. St. Mary’s helps them find and honor their own strengths. That creates a foundation of confidence, and that foundation translates into a whole host of things.”

To St. Mary’s girls, Kathy says, “whether it is business or community involvement, what you choose to do in your life needs to be fun, and you have to be passionate about it. When that is missing, you really need to stop and think about how you are spending your time.”