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!




Exuberance, Humour, Warmth, Inspiration, Scholarship

By Philip Deacon

I first met David at Cambridge University some four decades ago, and, having often shared the same research preferences in eighteenth-century studies, I have never ceased to admire him for his outstanding qualities and multiple talents. He has always been approachable, and which of us, after a gap since last seeing him in person, can fail to recognize that more than a hint of a smile which makes clear that he is prepared for conversation and to share thoughts (and gossip) on the state of Hispanism, eighteenth-century studies and more especially the activities of friends in common. And that spirit of camaraderie and fellowship bears tribute to the humanity of David, our mutual friend. One cannot imagine him being nasty – ever. He thinks the best of people and that is how he treats them. The same humanity permeates his devotion to 18th-century studies, which made a virtue out of concern for fellow humans and the flourishing of human kind. His belief in people is plainly evident, and his devotion to friends has often drawn him to act in almost impossible ways in offering his support. Those who have benefited from it will know what I mean.

If David asks you to write something you feel flattered and want to participate. From previous experience you know he can tap the talents of the best in the field, so a request from him is an invitation to do your best; and you enjoy working for him, reminding yourself that he thought you capable. “Dieciocheros”, as one of our mutual friends refers to eighteenth-century scholars, could not have a finer champion. The fact that he edits Dieciocho, always striving to publish the best, means he has enriched one of the veteran titles in our field. And, of course, we know that David also finds time for the 19th-century and more recent Spanish culture.

David’s joie de vivre infects everything he does, and he brings that exuberance to academic matters. Hearing him lecture you know will be both fun and serious, as well as significant and provocative. David enriches any academic Unigathering he attends, and those who know him well expect to see him surrounded by new acquaintances because his reputation precedes him.

So, we are in awe of his energy; we admire his commitment to things he (and we) believe in; we cannot believe someone of his academic stature can be so “nice”; we are incapable of figuring out how he finds time to sleep, given what he has achieved; we are amazed at his eclecticism – he appears to have few negative tastes. So…… thinking that he is officially retiring does not convince us that he will change. And those grandchildren will ensure his eternal youth endures and endures. What a guy!



Feliz jubilación, David, carpe tempus!

(por  Aurelio González Ovies)

Feliz jubilación, David, carpe tempus!:

Es muy largo el trayecto todavía,
fueron gratos los años hasta aquí,
quedan muchos caminos, mucha
luz y es un tiempo hermosísimo
para abrir bien los brazos
y percibirla.
No importan las horas que han pasado,
nos esperan los años por venir,
desde ayer hasta hoy
desde ahora hasta siempre,
solo valen los días por vivir
solo somos la vida que se viva.

There once was a prof named Gies

by Gretchen Shively

As one of David’s four sisters-in-law on Janna’s side of the family, I am writing to add to sister Kristin’s wonderful toast to David. Most of the accolades in this journal have been written by his former students and colleagues as a fabulous tribute to his role as a professor, mentor, and academic leader, of which we are well aware but didn’t experience ourselves. But there’s so much more to David than his abilities as a teacher. He is constantly energetic, funny, upbeat, spirited, caring, kind, and so generous with his time and friendship (and a fabulous cook as well). I’ve never known anyone who can get more done in any single 24-hour period, day after day. We so enjoy participating vicariously in Janna’s and his worldwide travels through his many pictures and reports of places they’ve been. Whenever my husband and I are going to a new part of the world, where David has inevitably already been, we ask for his advice and he writes a long reply with many travel tips, especially about the best restaurants in the area. He has been such a wonderful husband and partner to Janna, which will of course continue in his retirement. Also, on behalf of our 98-year-old mother, I want to express our appreciation to him for how loving and supportive he’s been to her over the years, including the time he took his own mom and ours on a fantastic 10-day trip to all his favorite places in Spain. Welcome to the world of retirement, David. I’m sure you will make the most of it, knowing you!

There once was a prof named Gies
Whose efforts would more than suffice.
He taught Spanish for years
And brought students to tears
With his knowledge of Spain and advice.

He travelled the world far and wide
With students and friends and his bride
He reported his trips
With multiple tips
On places to eat, drink and stride.

But now Gies is going to retire
Do we think he will really aspire?
To sitting at home
And being alone?
More likely he’d rather expire.

He isn’t that sort of man, is he?
Instead he will make us all dizzy
By talking and cooking
And writing and booking
And so he will always be busy.

Happy retirement, David!

From Gretchen and Chuck

Letter: Thank You, and Stories

By Jeff Bersett

Dear David,

Thank you for being a teacher who taught us to learn and to teach, and to love both. Your classes were always models of efficiency. Your lectures transmitted the maximum amount of information with the minimum amount of boredom. Your positive attitude and good humor taught us that learning, difficult learning, could also be fun and exciting (how Enlightenment of you!). You created a space for discussion that allowed students to find their strengths, to participate in constructive dialogue, and to be respectful of the ideas of others (to the point when such respect was deserved and/or necessary).

Thank you for being a scholar who has served as a role model for all of us. Your work has taught us what there is to know, and it has also taught us how to do the work ourselves. As I am sure others will have said more eloquently here, you made the XVIII into a thing again. We study the Enlightenment in new and interesting ways that were not possible before your work. You have encouraged all of us to reach for the same level of achievement, and you have helped us along the way as well with useful and insightful (and instant—how the hell?) feedback at every turn.

Thank you for being a colleague from whom we all learn daily what it means to be a colleague. You have modeled positive and productive interactions that have become the meta ideal for the rest of us in our respective departments. You have taught us how to navigate the labyrinth of personality in academia, and how to make the most of difficult situations.

I speak on behalf of all of us—former students, fellow scholars, current colleagues—and hope that my experiences with you have been shared to some degree by all.


I have given a lot of thought to what stories I would want to include here, and have found, as I have stated elsewhere, that there are just too many good ones that need to be shared. Adventures in dogsitting (avec parfum de skunk), NEH work both at UVa and in Spain, dinner (or lunch, maybe) at Zalacaín, our cameo appearance in what is possibly the worst movie ever made (I never received my Goya, did you?), countless movies and plays, countless books bought / sold / exchanged / recommended / argued over, conference panels and presentations, letters of recommendation (written, oddly, in both directions—how’d that happen?), museums and exhibitions, food food food frenzies everywhere at every opportunity (and the quest for the perfect soup dumpling!), hilarious Uber and cab rides (most recently with the wacky lady in New York during the bomb cyclone!—I haven’t laughed that hard in years!), and all the kindnesses and generosity extended over the years. And I’m sure that there will be more in the future to be added to this list.

But I will end on one of the stories of generosity. In 2015, the Kennedy Center hosted its Iberian Suite event, bringing together artists and authors from around the Spanish-speaking world. We both happened to be in DC for the event, and you made sure to invite me to all the dinners and all the drinks and all the people. You had no reason to include me in these things, but as you always have done with everyone, you made sure that you did. A lasting memory of that trip is of Spanish writer and TV personality Elvira Lindo making sure that she got a portrait of Janna at the Kennedy Center. Not to mention that we ate and drank and spent time with our favorite writers from everywhere. In addition to Elvira, we spent time in some capacity with Antonio Muñoz Molina, Javier Cercas, Juan Gabriel Vásquez, Anne McLean, and Carlos Ruiz Zafón, not to mention sightings of other folks like César Aira and Edith Grossman. Your celebrity photo obsession is catching… I particularly like this one of us with Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Antonio Muñoz Molina, and Elvira Lindo. We were having such a good time that the digital ghost of García Márquez left his chestnut tree in the courtyard to photobomb us.


Thank you for everything, always.
Your friend,

PS—Amy thanks you, too. Her story would involve Isabel Allende and drinks in Tiburón followed by a fantastic dinner in Sausalito. That actually might be a better story.

¡Felicidades, Almirante!

de José Hidalgo

¡Felicidades! Así suelen empezar las muestras de cariño tras la trayectoria profesional de personas competentes. En este caso, se debería comenzar la felicitación con preguntas de sorpresa y asombro: ¿Ya? ¿Tan pronto? El Profesor Gies, que con el tiempo fue David, luego Almirante David, siempre ha estado en mi memoria y más profunda estima desde que lo conocí de manera virtual en la primavera del 2003, cuando buscaba un programa de doctorado para continuar mis estudios. Muchos lectores sabrán de la dificultad que entraña decidir entre un programa u otro, y en mi caso, tenía preparadas hasta doce solicitudes. Quizás pensaba que mientras más solicitudes mejores posibilidades de encontrar el programa adecuado. Sin embargo, fueron la profesionalidad, entusiasmo y buena disposición de David lo que hizo que rasgara en pedacitos las restantes once. Así fue, David me había convencido de que tenía que ir a C´ville para estudiar en el SIP, y ahora solo tenía una opción; bueno dos, la otra era regresar a España si no entraba en el programa.

A David lo conocí por fotografía antes que en persona. Fue en los primeros días de visita a Cabell Hall donde lo encontré junto a Don Juan Carlos, Rey de España por aquel entonces. ¿Cómo?, se preguntarán. Sí, elegantemente retratado junto al antiguo Rey. Creo recordar que posteriormente se cambió la foto por una con Don Felipe VI.

Una vez me presenté en su oficina y acepté el ritual de comerme unos M&M´s, ese famoso tarro de chocolates que preside su escritorio, tuve el privilegio de conocer a una de las personas más generosas, amigables y cariñosas que la profesión ha visto y echará en falta. No voy a mencionar sus éxitos académicos de sobra conocidos, ya que me extendería páginas y páginas. Es que además David va más allá, y su persona desprende un aire señorial y folletinesco. Para empezar forma parte de la aristocracia española, el academicismo de ambos continentes, e incluso al más puro estilo cervantino su persona salpica en las páginas de ficción de algún que otro escritor de envergadura.

Además de estas peculiaridades, unas de las características que destacan de David son su generosidad y sencillez. Por aquel entonces del 2003 yo era un simple y humilde estudiante graduado, de escasos recursos y algo perdido en la cultura y el idioma. David, por el contrario, era profesor catedrático, reconocido en las esferas docentes y literarias, y sin embargo se ofreció sin preámbulos a llevarme de compras al supermercado y a mostrarme la ciudad. No sólo una sino varias veces, y siempre con una disposición apabullantemente positiva que hace arrancar sonrisas hasta a un muerto. Me trató con gran cariño y ternura, pues para David no hay jerarquías ni rangos sino personas con alma, mente y corazón.
También disfruté a lo grande, al igual que muchos otros estudiantes, de su talento como pastelero en todas las celebraciones cinematográficas. Así que además de facilitar a sus estudiantes la vida con su sabiduría y apoyo, nos endulzaba el paladar y nos llenaba la barriga.

Sin duda, me dio gran regocijo que fuera a la defensa de mi tesis sobre asuntos medievales en El Greco con el inolvidable Chico, quien no bostezó en ningún momento. Ejemplo de seriedad académica, dignidad y rectitud. Siempre le agradeceremos que en el seminario de mujeres decimonónicas que impartió nos ayudara a publicar los trabajos finales de investigación en una revista académica. Y la lista de acciones de apoyo y ayuda puede continuar y continuar… Después de la escuela graduada, siempre ha respondido en menos de veinticuatro horas a cualquiera de mis inquietudes profesionales, con buenas sugerencias y comentarios inteligentes. He tenido el gusto de encontrármelo en varios congresos y siempre he disfrutado de su compañía, y de compartir muy buenos momentos. A día de hoy seguimos en contacto y ojalá que por muchos años más. ¡Felicidades, Almirante, por ser uno de los genios de carne y papel en este Parnaso terrenal!

Loving guidance and support

by Arantxa Ascunce
I completed my PhD at UVA in Spanish in 2007. I took a job at the University of Hawaii where I stayed until 2015. During that time, David and Janna came twice to visit, once with the Semester at Sea and the other time while they were on vacation. I cherish this picture of us together in Maui, Jan. 19, 2014. We are standing at the trunk of a massive tree that spans the area of an entire plaza. I think this picture is symbolic of his work as a teacher and all the branches, leaves and flowers that have stemmed from his loving guidance and generous support throughout the years.

Revealing David’s Impact with Voyant

The following word clouds use Voyant text reveal tool to analyze word frequency in the posts (organized by category) on this site, uncovering through our collective words about David, the common themes, ideas, and impacts he has made on so many. You can change the view from “Cirrus” (Word Cloud) to other visualizations such as grids, bubble lines, and links.


AIH (Asociación Internacional de Hispanistas)

Colleagues (UVA and beyond)

Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese

Former students

Friends, family and the Charlottesville commmunity

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.

What do I think of David Gies? 

By Yvonne Fuentes
What do I think of David Gies?
David Gies is the epitome of a great scholar, a generous teacher, a wise mentor, and a loyal friend.
Thank you David, for your wisdom, time, and generosity.
Un abrazo, amigo.