David Gies: presente

By Ted Peebles

The occasion of David’s retirement got me to dig through some old boxes of photographs from the pre-digital late 1980s and early 1990s when Aurora and I were graduate students.  So many pictures –and yet so few of David, which wouldn’t be all that strange, except for the background… David’s back yard?  That must be one of the back-to-school departmental picnic he hosted for several years.  Isn’t that David’s living room furniture?  Must be one of the Oscar night watch parties I remember attending (he had the biggest TV I’d ever seen –and a spectacular video collection).  David is not in the frame, of course, because he was everywhere else:  pulling something delectable out of the oven, helping Mary Jo at the kitchen table, conversing with everyone on any subject (he seemed to always have seen the play or read the book before anyone), making everyone feel at home –and all while managing to take candid snapshots of his guests, pictures which we’d soon find in our inboxes in Cabell Hall.  He once told me his secret weapon was his little Olympus Stylus 35mm pocket camera –a camera so small he always had it with him.  I immediately bought one for myself (and I still have it, in fact).  Next come photos with writers, some of whom became friends:  there’s Isabel Allende, Antonio Muñoz Molina, Rosa Montero, Mempo Giardinelli with David and joyful Janna –pictures made possible in good measure by David’s work behind the scenes as department chair: extending invitations, securing funding, arranging schedules; in short:  using his boundless energy to bring people together and make things happen for everyone, as always.  There we are with Elena Poniatowska at the University of Richmond in the early 1990s; for Aurora and me, our first visit to the place we’ve called home now for over 20 years.

Cut to fall 2007:  we’re at a party at the home of Fernando Operé and Carrie Douglass, and David is showing us the medal he has just received for the Order of Isabel la Católica –only it’s not the actual medal, but a life-sized illuminated image held to his chest as if pinning it to his lapel:  it’s the first iPhone I’ve ever seen.


These days we all have cameras in our pockets; but for the life of me I can’t find the photo I have of David giving a wonderful inaugural lecture at the first annual Student Research Symposium of our newly minted Department of Latin American and Iberian Studies in 2009 (though I remember David’s friend, former UVa Dean of Arts and Sciences and then University of Richmond President Ed Ayers, sat in the front row).  No photo; but how to capture David’s efforts on behalf of so many colleagues and teachers and students at all levels of our profession over the years?  There’s not a big enough frame.

So thank you, David, for all you’ve done, whether before our eyes or out of view.  And here’s to some well deserved ‘selfie’ time for you and Janna –can’t wait to see the pics!




Survey comments

We asked David’s colleagues, friends and students to fill out a short survey so that we could gather some information for a visualization of this impact. We left a question open for comments, and include them here:

Can’t thank David enough for his support and advice through the years.
I would add that David also participates regularly at the ASECS conference for 18th-century studies, and no doubt has met many people that way.
David’s principal impact has undoubtedly been in the field of 19th century theater studies, for focusing not on drama as a set of texts but on theatre as a culture industry. In this sense he was a pioneer of cultural studies without using the term. His edited Cambridge History of Spanish Literature is a book I use all the time. and his more recent Cambridge History of Theatre in Spain (with Maria Delgado) is awesome. His work in keeping interest alive in Spain’s 18th century has also been invaluable and has paid off with more scholars now working in the field.
One did not have to be a student, a colleague or a collaborator to know David. Everyone in the profession knows him! His network of contacts, colleagues and friends is vast, and transcends institutional connections!
He has been a perpetual mentor and inspiration.
David was much more than a professor to me – he was an incredible mentor. One of the most valuable things he told me was that he would be happy doing whatever he decided that he was going to do, whether that be a garbage collector or a Spanish Professor. That, to me, was one of the greatest gifts he gave me – imparting the importance of the pursuit of happiness in our lives.
You probably did not miss it, but his role as advisor/mentor cannot be overstated.
The fact that David Gies opened his West Leigh home to his students and colleagues had an enormous positive impact on generations of us.
Quantifying or qualifying the impact of David Gies on my life? Wow – where to start, from meeting him as a student, him becoming my mentor, and having the good fortune to evolve that into a close and invaluable friendship – he has welcomed my wife and me into his home as house guests and been a life advisor in person and by phone not to mention go to reference for all things political on Facebook – David Gies, you are one of a kind and I am honored to know you and be your friend. Steven Reinemund
He was the dean on three SAS voyages on which he hired me to teach. On another voyage we both taught.
Fue un excelente colega, amigo y colaborador, siempre entusiasta y lleno de iniciativa
long-time ASECS colleague; outside reviewer for my department; recommender on numerous occasions
David’s enthusiasm has made so many friends for our organization!
I know very few members of the university community who have David’s social gifts; he builds community.
David Gies is a gentleman, scholar, Spanish Knight, Mr. Semester at Sea AND a judge of fine wines.
He will be missed
David and Janna’s hospitality to students gave me many fond memories — including everyone’s favorite “baked Alaska”!
Mientras él fue Presidente de la AIH, yo fui miembro de la Junta Directiva y Tesorera General. Fue un placer tratarle.
Probably wasn’t missed but I will never firget his fire in theclassroom to push me as far as I could go. He was relentless but fair. Always.
No option for David being a mentor– which is was and is! Also, I first met David at a Mid-America Conference. I know there are so many conferences that could have been listed, though.
How do we know David Gies : Let me count the ways . . . I started writing something linear and boring — but David Gies and is his life are neither. So. . . WHERE would we be without Tinto and Tapas, Great stories from the family, the pets, the World and Semester at Sea, Very happy times of food, wine, and discovery at the Paramount and with Cavalier Travels? David Gies : Always an engaged, inspired, and inspiring teacher. Curiosity, exuberance, intelligence, attention to detail, caring, joy. Because of him, Vicki and Wynne love Spain and the warmth of the culture and will continue our Spain / France banter, as only he can incite! WHERE would we be without Janna with David, as they travel forward together in their adventures?
His generosity seems to be limitless.
Outside reader for promotion portfolios
He was a professor who became a friend and a colleague. His continued support and mentorship have been a key part of my career, and his friendship has been an important part of my life.
Have you captured his ability to preside at a table? The conversation explodes around him, and can last for hours.
Many of my most important mentoring moments happened with David: he personally interviewed me for the graduate program and helped advocate for me; he invited me to cowrite my first publication, an entry in an encyclopedia. He published my first scholarly article (and once since then as well.) He has been a regular presence at ASECS meetings. His own encyclopedic knowledge makes professional consultations with him a remarkable experience. His wife is one of my favorite dinner companions at ASECS.

On and off the ship, a wonderful colleague, mentor and friend!

By Katherine Beach

Dear David,

On and off the ship, you are a wonderful colleague, mentor and friend! Thank you for your kindness, generosity, and fun-loving spirit. You’ve given so much to the Charlottesville and UVA community and your impact is beyond imaginable all around the world!

So great to have the opportunity to work with you and Janna with Semester at Sea and I’m proud you trusted me with the care of dear Chico and Foster in 2014.

You are an example to all of us! Thank you!