She was the woman beside the man: companion, partner,
friend and soul mate — “the other Dr. Gaebe.” And when Audrey K. Gaebe
’88 Hon., wife of Chancellor Morris J. W. Gaebe, passed away on March
5, Johnson & Wales lost the co-matriarch of the JWU family.
be known, Audrey Gaebe had five sons — four boys and Johnson &
Wales,” says Chairman of the Board John Yena, longtime friend and
How a golden girl from Nashville, Ill.,
became “mother” to a university begins and ends as a love story. Audrey
Klee Reidelberger and Morris “Mose” Gaebe were high school sweethearts.
An honor student, cheerleader and accomplished musician, she studied at
the University of Illinois. Married in 1941, Morris’ service in the
US Navy took the couple to California where they became fast friends
with Edward and Vilma Triangolo.
In 1947, when the
Triangolos asked the Gaebes to partner in Johnson & Wales School of
Business, where Vilma had studied and been employed, the Gaebes headed
“You are so adventurous to move to Rhode
Island. You are like a pioneer,” Audrey Gaebe recalled a friend telling
her. That entrepreneurial spirit brought “Greatest Generation” values
to job-focused education.
While their husbands
handled business “on a shoestring,” the women administered, taught,
washed floors and cleaned bathrooms, all while raising families. “We’re
not friends, we’re sisters,” Audrey would tell Vilma.
Morris Gaebe declared hospitality a JWU trademark early on, Audrey was
its gracious hostess. Annual staff Christmas parties and summer
barbecues are legendary. “Presidents to janitors” were welcomed. Audrey
made each guest feel valued. “She was that apple pie mom. God, country,
family, were values that she held without wearing them on her sleeve,”
says North Miami Campus Pres. Donald McGregor, J.D. with JWU since 1962.
were mirrored in every aspect ofher life. Involved in her church,
scouting, her community and the arts, she loved cheering from the
sidelines. Sons Dana, Gregor,Geoff and John were all star athletes and
Eagle Scouts. “In a house with five men, she managed to keep everybody
in line and did a marvelous job raising the four boys, ”McGregor says.
and faith fueled her exuberance. Despite a near-fatal heart attack in
her 40s her zest for life was never diminished. During her husband’s
tenure as university president, she was a visible first lady, present
at every important event. Inspired by her love for music and Johnson
& Wales, in 1994 she wrote the university’s alma mater and sang it
more fervently than anyone.
“I used to tease her about being a Polyanna when it came to Johnson & Wales,” says Vilma Triangolo ’36, ’98 Hon.
“She was proud of the institution’s accomplishments and how it changes the lives of so many students,” recalls Yena.
remarkable human being,” “a perfect lady” who loved dancing, golf, the
Red Sox and weekly dinners at the restaurant that bears her name, she
took pride in her husband’s accomplishments. By his side, Audrey Gaebe,
wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, traveled twice around
“If you wanted to have a model for what a
committed relationship ought to be, you couldn’t have found a better
example,” Yena says. “They were the most important part of each other’s
And together they built a business school
that became a university. “Miss Johnson and Miss Wales founded the
school, but the Gaebes and the Triangolos nurtured the infant that Miss
Johnson and Miss Wales gave birth to,” Yena says. “They brought the