A personal superhero

By Paulette Jones Morant

Homenaje a David T. Gies

A leader, a seeker of justice, an intellectual and a true friend; these characteristics only begin to describe the distinguished gentleman, Mr. David T. Gies. As the twenty-eighth year of our association and friendship approaches, I am honored to reflect on his positive and inspirational effects. Whether friend, colleague, family member or student, David motivates achievement and excellence. This became clear to me from our first meeting in 1990, when I took part in the program that was the precursor for the 1992 National Endowment for the Humanities institute “Spain Today and Toward the Year 2000”. In the 1990 program, a small group of secondary level teachers of Spanish convened at The University of Virginia (my alma mater) for a two-week residential program of instruction on Spain’s current literary and political trends. Under David’s expert instruction and with the superb support of teaching assistant Mousumi B. Franks, our awareness, interest and expertise increased in multiple ways. David’s enthusiasm was contagious in the best sense: he didn’t wish to be the only knowledgeable person on any topic. His generosity of time, spirit and smiles made for a program that we would not forget. He erased the often-perceived barrier between university and secondary level teachers by reminding us that we are all in the match together to share the powerful tools of linguistic and cultural fluency. We promised to take his advice to read a few pages of native Spanish literature or journalism each day, no matter how overburdened our high school schedules. As he predicted, confidence, enjoyment and better preparation for class came as a result.

The 1992 NEH Spain Today program brought the opportunity for me to visit and study in Spain for the first time since 1972. I will long remember meeting authors Carmen Martin-Gaite and Rosa Montero as well as learning through film, journals, lectures and travels, all highlighted by David’s confidence in us as participants and the added bonus of instruction by Professor Fernando Operé and Dr. Jeff Bersett. Café Gijón will remain in memory as a favorite location for people watching as well as project discussions.

On a personal note, my husband and I are huge fans of the Dynamic Duo, David and Janna. We enjoy following their adventures, we admire their partnership, and we wish them as many celebrity encounters as they can manage. I smile at a 1996 memory of my husband saying “Guess who was on The Today Show—David and Janna”. Their VIP status is in the stratosphere, as is their care for their community, for women’s issues and for the common good.

David’s enduring leadership, example, talents and enthusiasm have provided me with great life lessons. How many of us are fortunate enough to have a personal superhero? All of us who have been friends, relatives, students or colleagues of our treasured David T. Gies.

Gracias, David y que te vaya fenomenal siempre.

Un abrazo fuertísimo,
Paulette Jones Morant