Unfailing generosity

by Stephanie Sieburth

I met David Gies very early on in my career, and he quickly became a wonderful mentor and supporter to me as I made my way up through the ranks.  Whether it was for renewal, tenure, fellowship application, or promotion, David always graciously agreed to write letters for me.  So many others could tell the same tale, for David always wanted to help us prosper in the profession.  But there was one occasion when David came to my rescue in a way that is perhaps unique.  About two years before I came up for tenure at Duke, my crazy department chair in French informed me that, because I had been hired in an 18th– and 19th-century position, I couldn’t possibly get tenure unless I taught an entire graduate course on the eighteenth century.  I tried to explain that the Spanish eighteenth century could not compare to the French eighteenth century, but he was having none of it.  I panicked, picked up the phone and called David.  He immediately made me feel much better by telling me that he himself had never taught an entire graduate course on the eighteenth century!  Then we brainstormed about how I could do it as a cultural studies course, and David recommended a wealth of useful primary and secondary sources.  In the end, the course turned out to be a very interesting experience for me, and I got tenure after all.  I can literally say that it wouldn’t have happened without David.

David’s impact went far beyond his unfailing generosity and mentoring.  He did so much to create a wonderful atmosphere at conferences, through his unfailing enthusiasm, his openness to a wide variety of approaches, and his unparalleled skills as an organizer of sessions.  Along with Harriet Turner and Roberta Johnson, he also played a huge role in enabling so many of us to fund summer research in Spain through the Programa de Cooperación Cultural.  Thank you, David, for making our field such a place of friendship, fun, and intellectual excellence!  Enjoy your retirement, and come see us in North Carolina!