Not Your Average Superstar

By Matthieu P. Raillard

To say that David has had an impact on my career would be an understatement.  Prof. Gies is one of the main reasons that I became a professor, and I owe him not only the discovery of the fascinating Spanish eighteenth century, but also for all of his help throughout my career.  I was a somewhat disoriented M.A. student when I took his survey course on Enlightenment and Romanticism, and I was inspired by the manner in which he made fascinating these authors and works that, let’s face it, often have a reputation for being cold or prosaic.

He was always there to support me, be it as my professor, as my dissertation director, or as my mentor after I left UVA.  We’d all heard horror stories about superstar academic who treat their students like garbage, yet with David it was the opposite.  I always felt that he was there for me, it didn’t matter that I was “just” a grad student, or a fellow academic at a conference.  David has taught me that being a famous, respected professor doesn’t have to mean that you are aloof, distant, or condescending to students and other professors. Quite the contrary- I always felt that he genuinely wanted all of us to succeed, and time and again gave us the opportunities and support to do so.  He made me us all feel as if we were part of the one big family, and to this day I believe that attending UVA was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  I am eternally grateful to count him as a professor and a friend.

Matthieu P. Raillard

Lewis & Clark College