By Randolph Pope
It would be easier for me to write about the seven seas, which David has sailed, or the heights of the Andes range, which he has explored, than to put into immensely insufficient words what David Gies has meant to me as a very great friend, an admired colleague, a dazzling speaker and an a profoundly enlightened person. I first met him at an MLA Convention, and he immediately stood out for his wit, enthusiasm, sincere cordiality and winning personality. He was a defining reason for why Mané and I came to UVA (a happy decision!).
There is something peculiar and unique about his presence. When he walks into a room he changes it, not by overpowering it with his height or own personality, but by amazingly illuminating everyone there and celebrating them. He makes you believe in your best self. No wonder that in the department that he and Javier Herrero created we have been unusually supportive of each other, because we see ourselves in David’s view. He reads all we write and never fails to send an encouraging note. This is no minor gesture; it is extremely unusual and for me most encouraging.
He is effortlessly generous. His work for 18th-Century studies has changed for the best the profession, not only with his classes and the editorship of Dieciocho, but also for bringing together for years a study group of faculty interested in this period. His students love and respect him, and he cares for them deeply. He set a high standard for the rest of us. I have seen evidence of this innumerable times. And where did he and Janna find the time to attend our daughter’s wedding in Charleston or meet with Mané and me in Portugal? How much that meant for us!
Part of his career and adventures can be found in his engaging autobiography, “Hispanista por casualidad: mi viaje por la literatura y la cultura españolas”, found in ¿Por qué España? (2014), but he is a radiant life-giving energy that goes beyond all accomplishments and words. In Japan, he would have been named a National Treasure years ago…