Friends, Colleagues Honor Charlie Gibson and 'His Remarkable Career'

Departing "World News" anchor: "It has been an honor to work with all of you."

ByABC News
December 17, 2009, 4:25 PM

Dec. 18, 2009— -- Several hundred of Charlie Gibson's ABC News colleagues, friends and family members packed the Kaplan Penthouse at Lincoln Center in New York City Thursday evening to honor the man as he winds down his tenure anchoring "World News" -- and to marvel at the broad sweep of a three-and-a-half-decade career at ABC News.

"The first rough draft of history over this generation has been seen by an entire nation through the eyes of Charlie Gibson," said ABC News President David Westin, who toasted Gibson's leadership role as "an essential glue that has held us all together."

Photos lined the walls -- Gibson cooking with Julia Child, sitting down with President Obama, reporting from the Vatican and anchoring 2008 election night coverage -- all evidence of what the invitation from Westin and Disney-ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney described as Gibson's "remarkable" career.

The room, filled with lighted candles and flowers, was wall-to-wall with well-wishers, many of whom personally greeted Gibson, 66, and recounted memories from assignments over the years.

Along with the memories, there were a few laughs.

"In sports, we know that when a star player decides to step off the field at the top of his game, the team generally retires his jersey," Sweeney said in a toast. "I think it's a little bit sad that we don't have that kind of ritual in TV news, and I really wish we did so that we could honor Charlie's importance and his contributions to all of us and to journalism. So tonight, Charlie, I am going to respectfully request that you retire your tie."

"I shower in a tie," Gibson quipped.

Gibson's last day helming "World News" is today. He will be succeeded by Diane Sawyer, who will "be in the chair on Monday at 6:30 as our audience would expect," Westin wrote in an e-mail to ABC News staff earlier Thursday.

Sawyer was called away on assignment unexpectedly, but Gibson's former co-anchor on "Good Morning America" called him before the event to offer congratulations on his retirement.

In his speech, Gibson recounted his transition from being a local reporter in Washington, D.C., to a network news reporter and later a co-anchor of "Good Morning America" and an anchor of "World News."

The passionate baseball fan said, "I lucked into the best team game outside of sports," and thanked his ABC News colleagues for their dedication to excellence in their work.

"You can't forget how important it is what we do," he said. "You get caught up in the competitive aspects, you get caught up on so many ephemeral things and you get worried about this and that, but in the bottom line, the most important thing, overall, is that what we do is important."

"It has been an honor to work with all of you, truly an honor," he added. "I have loved every damn day of it. Thank you."

Kate Gibson, the younger of Gibson's two daughters and a producer for CBS News, toasted her father and mentor, and the life lessons he's taught her. Some of the lessons, such as how to listen, humility and the value of hard work, have guided her life.

"Listening is a skill and my father is a master," she said. "and as a result, people love to talk to him."

"I am very proud of my father, and not just for what he has accomplished with his work, which we celebrate tonight," she added. "I am proud of my father the good listener, my father the people person, my father the hard worker and my father who is filled with both humility and courage. If he had just a few of those traits he would be a good man, but he has all of them and he is a great man."

Gibson's older daughter, Jessica Gibson Rosen, said she's waiting to see what he does next.

"This chapter will be another opportunity to learn something new," she said. "I am looking forward to the next chapter. It's going to be exciting. I am sure it will be a smashing success as have been the ones before it."

Gibson thanked his daughters for their support and understanding of his busy schedule throughout his career.

"There have been plays I have missed and recitals I have not been at, and the kids understood that," he said.

He also praised his wife, Arlene, who he described as having "the patience of Job," and said he was forever grateful for her love.