Lisa Gibert is an Iris Awards winner
6 minute read
Lisa Gibert, CEO of Clark College Foundation, was one of five women named as an Iris Awards winner on March 8, 2022. The Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce presents the awards to exceptional women who are making enduring, positive changes to Clark County, Wash.
The 2022 awards were announced during a virtual ceremony that capped an all-day Women Who Mean Business Symposium, attended by 225 women.
Amy Reeves of OnPoint Community Credit Union, introduced Gibert, reminding the audience that the Iris Awards “honors exceptional women making an enduring impact on the region. … These are women who are leaving Clark County better than how they found it.”
Gibert joined the foundation staff in 1998 as director of finance and administration, then chief financial officer and interim president before taking the helm in 2005. She’s stepping aside in June. Gibert has led the foundation to remarkable heights during her tenure, including increasing assets by 85% to more than $122 million. Additionally, the foundation’s endowment has risen to be the fourth highest in the nation among public community colleges. Scholarship dollars have quadrupled, allowing the foundation to award more than $1.2 million to students each year.
None of that growth came easily. The nonprofit navigated multiple challenges over the years including the subprime mortgage crisis and a global pandemic. Gibert faced a personal tragedy, too. In 2014, her husband of 25 years, Brett Gibert, died following complications from routine surgery at the age of 53.
“I have learned that no matter what life has had in store—be it love and loss, health and sickness, prosperity and adversity—life is messy,” said Gibert when accepting the award. “Yet, my advice is don’t let that messiness stop you from reflecting on what is important and how you can make your mark on the community. Get involved, help where you can and make a difference by building a community of kindness and goodwill for all.”
Gibert grew up in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Her family owned a successful accounting firm and they anticipated she too would follow the accounting path. But Gibert had other aspirations.
“I wanted to map my own course,” Gibert said.
She went to college at the University of Oregon and majored in finance.
“It was as close to accounting as I could get without actually becoming an accountant,” she mused.
After graduation, she worked as a commercial lending officer and financial analyst before enrolling at the University of California Irvine and earning an MBA. When she graduated, the economy was in shambles. Every possible employer she met asked about her accounting experience. She was surprised at how the ghost of accounting seemed to be following her.
“I thought, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me.’ After all these years of fighting it, you know, what do I do now?” she said.
She finally gave in and landed a job with a large accounting firm, eventually working as an auditor. One of her clients was Clark College Foundation.
In 1996, Roy G. Andersen, a business leader and lifelong Vancouver, Wash. resident, passed away and left the foundation a $28.8 million bequest. It was the single biggest gift in the foundation’s history and the largest gift ever bestowed to a community college foundation in the U.S. at the time.
“As a banker you recognize that nothing can put you out of business faster than super hypergrowth,” Gibert said. “And it’s scary because you have to … adjust, you have to be able to manage that because of course any kind of growth comes with strings. And you have to adjust to what the expectations are, the deliverables.”
Gibert began to work more closely with the foundation and eventually she decided to leave the accounting firm and join the nonprofit’s staff.
And the rest, as the Iris Awards attest, is history. Gibert is not done cementing her legacy in Clark County. Even after she steps down from her job as CEO, Gibert hopes to continue working to realize Clark College’s planned Boschma Farms development. The campus on Ridgefield’s east side will serve students in northern Clark County. Construction on the first building will begin this summer.
The other outstanding woman recipients are Cyndi Holloway of Waste Connections, Ali Migaki of IQ Credit Union, Dr. Megan Dudley of Kaiser Permanente and Jeanne Bennett of Columbia Play Project and a Clark College Trustee. The Greater Vancouver Chamber announced the five recipients out of a group of 12 finalists during the ceremony.
The Greater Vancouver Chamber launched the Iris Awards program in 1985 to commemorate Women’s History Month, to recognize International Women’s Day and honor volunteer efforts and community leadership of women in Clark County.