How do you talk about a legend?

From Hazel Gold

How do you talk about a legend? Because for many of us that’s what David is: a renowned scholar in the field of 18th-19th-century Spain who is also legendary for his unflagging energy and his generosity to colleagues and students. I first met David at a conference when I was a newly minted assistant professor and looked to him for advice. Whether I asked questions about publication venues or wondered about the proper balance of research to teaching, he never steered me wrong. In those early days, travel funding to professional meetings was especially meager; in between our occasional reunions at MLA or NEMLA our friendship flourished through the exchange of letters. Eventually email replaced snail mail, which meant our conversational exchanges occurred more reliably and with greater speed. (BTW, David is a wonderful epistolographer whose letters are predictably smart and witty). These exchanges have always been sustained by David’s intellectual curiosity and his genuine investment in others’ successes, both professional and personal.

In the intervening years I’ve been privileged to present papers on panels that David organized. Public speaking doesn’t generally make me nervous but the threat of exceeding the allotted time and incurring David’s irritation always compelled me to read and reread my paper, stopwatch in one hand and blue pencil in the other, making cuts where needed. This was another lesson from David, about consideration for fellow panelists and the need to keep one’s own academic ego in check. Even from his lofty perch as editor of Dieciocho and Caballero de la Orden de Isabel la Católica, he’s continued to mentor students and junior colleagues, read their manuscripts and write reference letters, and fulfill his commitments with rare dedication. Some years ago while serving as Chief Reader of the AP Spanish Literature and Culture Exam reading, I invited David to Cincinnati to give a guest lecture to the assembled college and high school faculty. I was dumbstruck when he shared with me at dinner preceding the lecture that his mother had passed away during the previous 24 hours. He could easily (and justifiably) have canceled this engagement. But, no, as he explained, her death—not unexpected and at an advanced age—needed to be viewed as the capstone to a full and rich life that he and his siblings would continue to celebrate; meantime, he had a commitment to fill to all those professors and teachers who would be in the audience. If there’s a better example of what makes humanists ‘human,’ I have yet to encounter it.

Then there’s David the gastronome, something I got to experience firsthand when we coincided in Barcelona at a symposium organized by the Sociedad de Literatura Española del Siglo XIX. With one free day before returning to the U.S., David had rented a car and invited me to join him and Janna on an excursion to the Dalí Museum in Figueres followed by lunch at a hotel restaurant that one of his many Spanish friends had recommended. The building’s unassuming exterior didn’t prepare me for the experience that awaited us: Tuxedo-clad waiters glided through the dining room, wheeling carts on which they custom-tossed salads for patrons and delivered courses from an exacting menu whose exotic offerings included tordo and helado de hierbaluisa. The food was, unsurprisingly, exquisite. Here, too, in matters of food David never steered me wrong. The day concluded with a stop at the parador in Vic and drinks on the terrace overlooking the Sau reservoir and the distant mountains. (See accompanying photo). Although I’m currently sitting in my Atlanta office with a less than picturesque view of an athletic field, I again raise my glass to David—a master teacher in the arts of what truly counts—and look forward to everything he will accomplish in his next act.

Unfailing generosity

by Stephanie Sieburth

I met David Gies very early on in my career, and he quickly became a wonderful mentor and supporter to me as I made my way up through the ranks.  Whether it was for renewal, tenure, fellowship application, or promotion, David always graciously agreed to write letters for me.  So many others could tell the same tale, for David always wanted to help us prosper in the profession.  But there was one occasion when David came to my rescue in a way that is perhaps unique.  About two years before I came up for tenure at Duke, my crazy department chair in French informed me that, because I had been hired in an 18th– and 19th-century position, I couldn’t possibly get tenure unless I taught an entire graduate course on the eighteenth century.  I tried to explain that the Spanish eighteenth century could not compare to the French eighteenth century, but he was having none of it.  I panicked, picked up the phone and called David.  He immediately made me feel much better by telling me that he himself had never taught an entire graduate course on the eighteenth century!  Then we brainstormed about how I could do it as a cultural studies course, and David recommended a wealth of useful primary and secondary sources.  In the end, the course turned out to be a very interesting experience for me, and I got tenure after all.  I can literally say that it wouldn’t have happened without David.

David’s impact went far beyond his unfailing generosity and mentoring.  He did so much to create a wonderful atmosphere at conferences, through his unfailing enthusiasm, his openness to a wide variety of approaches, and his unparalleled skills as an organizer of sessions.  Along with Harriet Turner and Roberta Johnson, he also played a huge role in enabling so many of us to fund summer research in Spain through the Programa de Cooperación Cultural.  Thank you, David, for making our field such a place of friendship, fun, and intellectual excellence!  Enjoy your retirement, and come see us in North Carolina!

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.

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.

My pact with David

By Rebecca Haidt

I first met David perhaps 24 or 25 years ago at (I believe) a Mid-America conference. I was giving a paper on Fray Gerundio—my first conference paper while on the tenure track. As I was speaking, I saw a tall, slim, dark-haired man cross the back of the room rapidly and make a bee line toward Randolph Pope, with whom I was blessed to have done my dissertation. Someone next to me on the panel—was it Lin Sherman?—leaned over and whispered that that was David Gies. I must have been introduced to David after the session; but the real first meeting came later, at the conference luncheon. David approached my seat and said “come over here, sit next to me.” This was my first experience of David’s compelling friendliness and charm; the sense that with David, anything could happen. So of course I followed David! And when we sat down, he said: “Your paper was terrific. Keep doing good work. As long as you do good work, I will support you.”

Now, this was said with simple directness, a quality I value tremendously (and have come to appreciate in David as the mark of someone who knows how short are our days here on this planet, and how important it is to make them count). But I did not yet know the generosity and compassion David brought to everything he did with and for his students. I did not yet know his incredible smarts, his consummate work ethic, his passion for excellence, his global vision. I did know that someone eminent in my chosen field had just made two remarkable things happen in the space of a few seconds: He had made a pact with me; and —more important— he had made me think, “I can do good work if David thinks I can do it.”

As I remember that moment, it was the start of a commitment, which is different from only professing something. I committed to do good work as a scholar. I would say that is the greatest gift David gave me that day, had he not also gifted me with keeping the promise he made all those years ago. Over the years, David has never stopped being a mentor. Through my ups and downs, my better and worse, David has advised me, and recommended me to others; he has given me opportunities, and helped me in emergencies. He stuck with me even when I didn’t take his always excellent advice. He remembered what I was capable of, even when I didn’t. I will not achieve even a tenth of what David has worked to bring about during his amazing career as a gifted scholar, teacher, administrator, and connector. But I am profoundly grateful to know this star of a human being, fiercely alive, fiercely creating, fiercely giving. How fortunate I was to get out of my chair all those years ago, and follow him.


The Perfect Gentleman

By Jo Labanyi

Dear David,

It is impossible to imagine Hispanism without you, but I am hoping that your retirement will give you the time to be more active than ever. Spanish 18th century studies would not be enjoying its current revival (even I am teaching it now!) had you not been able to make it so interesting and to convey your enthusiasm to others. And we have to thank you for your pioneering work on 19th century Spanish theater which reminded us—before Spanish cultural studies existed—that theater is an industry that depends on entrepreneurs and popular tastes, not to mention the craftsmen who built those stage props and created those special effects. Thanks to you, no longer is Spanish theater seen as just a collection of texts (which it was when I was a student).

Although we have not coincided personally all that often, I have taken away from those occasions an appreciation of your great generosity and sense of fun. I remember well the afternoon, during my visit to UVA, when you drove me round the local countryside, stopping off at local wineries where the conversation was as amazing (I’m tempted to say “delicious” because the gossip was the best part) as the wine. I hope you know that the word that comes to almost everyone’s mind when talking about you is “the perfect gentleman.”

May you have much enjoyment in your retirement.

Jo Labanyi

Amigos para siempre

de Pedro Alvarez de Miranda y Pura Silgo

Lo nuestro empezó en 1984. Pedro y David se habían conocido dos años antes en Bolonia, en un congreso sobre el siglo XVIII, y enseguida conectaron (el tris de pasta del restaurante Diana hizo mucho), pero la relación entre los tres tuvo que esperar dos años, y sucedió en Madrid una noche de primavera. A partir de ese momento todo fue fácil; las visitas de David a Madrid eran muy frecuentes y, si al comienzo nuestro amigo americano se quedaba en hoteles, en la Residencia de Estudiantes o en casas prestadas, poco a poco el Parador de Reina Mercedes (no hay que olvidar su afición inconmensurable a estos hoteles españoles) fue su lugar de hospedaje favorito y en donde nosotros tres le recibíamos con los brazos abiertos.

Y digo tres porque Irene, nuestra única hija, desde muy pequeñita descubrió con David que también se puede tener amigos adultos con los que hablar y hablar, además de jugar. Los días que él pasaba en Madrid eran una fiesta para la pequeñaja, que miraba a nuestro barbudo y delgado amigo con un arrobamiento indescriptible. Cuando estaba aquí David, hacíamos excursiones, salíamos a comer y/o a cenar, íbamos al cine… y eso que el profesor Gies venía normalmente “a trabajar”.

Hemos recorrido juntos muchas zonas de España en nuestro Opel Corsa rojo de dos puertas y sin aire acondicionado, aunque el viaje fuera en un sofocante mes de julio del 92 a la Expo de Sevilla.

Miles de anécdotas, casi siempre divertidas, se agolpan en nuestro recuerdo y cuando nos entra la nostalgia las hacemos aflorar en una celebración continua de la amistad.

También nos tocó a nosotros cruzar el charco y viajar a Virginia. Estuvimos unos días en casa de David, conociendo a los perros, a los amigos, el entorno… y luego empezamos la aventura de llegar hasta Orlando en coche. Lo hicimos en varias etapas y pasamos por estados muy distintos entre sí, pero en todos nos daban muy cordialmente la bienvenida. Por fin, llegamos a Orlando y allí fue la apoteosis de la diversión. Lo vimos todo, anduvimos por todas partes y David e Irene se montaron como dos niños de la misma edad en todas las atracciones con gran entusiasmo. Como muestra de ello, aquí quedan unas fotos:

Todo esto sucedía en el año 1993.

A partir de entonces, hemos viajado de aquí para allá con o sin Irene, con o sin Janna, por Europa, por América, y siempre hemos constatado el valor de la amistad. David siempre está ahí, cercano, sonriente, tranquilizador, bondadoso, vitalista, generoso con su tiempo y con su persona, disponible, presente en todos los acontecimientos importantes que en estos cerca de 40 años hemos vivido unos y otros.

Por lo tanto, si alguien quiere saber qué es la amistad, cómo se fragua y se mantiene, que busque a este señor en Virginia o en un barco por los océanos o en un Parador, entable conversación con él, procure que lleve el iPhone y le pida al camarero que les saque una foto, y casi con toda probabilidad pronto se hará una idea de lo que es un amigo. 
Pedro, Irene y Pura
Madrid, enero 2018.


David Gies: Foodie for the Ages

By Roberta Johnson, Emerita, University of Kansas and UCLA

Gracious, gallant, and generous are three adjectives that come readily to mind when I think of David Gies. David has the knack for recognizing and promoting talent in others, as his students have amply testified. My career owes much to David (for example, the opportunity to serve on the Executive Committee of the PCC [Program for Cultural Cooperation between Spain’s Ministry of Culture and US Universities], which led to our both being inducted into the Order of Isabel la Católica), but this message is about David and not about me. Others of David’s wonderful qualities that do not fit the “g” alliteration include smart, fun, and savvy about good food. Since I have had the good fortune to share many culinary experiences with David, I will concentrate on that aspect of his conviviality. Over the years, I have dined with David (and often Janna too) at MLA, AIH, and PCC meetings, each researched and organized by David in the most diverse locations. Each meal was a memorable occasion with appreciation of great cooking laced with lively conversation. Not only is David an astute detective at finding the best restaurants in any locale, he is himself a consummate chef. He produced a to-die-for dinner at his lovely Charlottesville “estate” when he organized the annual PCC meeting at the University of Virginia in 2005.

In addition, I especially remember the cozy Paris restaurant David scoured out at the 2007 AIH meetings where we dined with Harriet Turner, Pedro Alvarez de Miranda, and his wife Pura.

David was instrumental in my being invited to join the Executive Committee of the PCC, which led to our being awarded the Order of Isabel la Católica in 2007 in a ceremony at the Spanish Ambassador’s residence in Washington DC.

David Gies, Harriet Turner, Roberta Johnson, George Greenia Washington DC 2007

When Pedro Álvarez de Miranda was inducted into the Real Academia de la Lengua in 2011, we had a dinner to honor Pedro at the legendary Zalacaín. The group included Pedro, Pura, their daughter and her husband, David, and Rosa Montero.

The reception after Pedro’s investiture was held at the Residencia de Estudiantes where David, Harriet Turner, and I spent many happy hours drinking and chatting when we met in Madrid for the PCC meetings.

Roberta Johnson, Pedro Alvarez de Miranda and David Gies

David was a huge hit when he came to UCLA to give the prestigious Mathews lecture, and of course the occasion offered several opportunities for meals with southern California colleagues.

With Maarten Van Delden, Jesús Torrecilla, Roberta Johnson, Maite Zubiaurre, Teo Ruiz and David.

With Robert Ellis, Paul , Maite Zubiaurre, and Lisa Vollendorf

And just to prove that it wasn’t all just eating with David (there was plenty of culture too), I end with David and Janna at the Getty Museum in Brentwood.

Roberta Johnson

Amigo David

de Rafael Benjumea

Amigo David,

Son ya muchos los años desde que nos conocemos, y muchas las veces que hemos coincidido. Siempre he sentido contigo esa conexión fácil que es la base de toda amistad. Para la Fundación Duques de Soria que me honro en presidir siempre has sido un gran amigo y siempre has dado tu apoyo cuando ha sido preciso. Sabemos bien que la amistad es necesariamente recíproca, y la que siento hacia ti la comparto con los Duques de Soria (la Infanta Doña Margarita y su marido el Duque de Soria), que tanto afecto te tienen.

Podría recordar alguna de las muchas veces que nos hemos encontrado, en España y fuera de España. Pero me referiré especialmente a lo mucho que hemos hablado seriamente, y también a lo mucho que nos hemos reído juntos, en Asambleas de la Asociación Internacional de Hispanistas de la que ahora eres Presidente de Honor: eso -como el homenaje- es porque te estás haciendo mayor, por culpa de los años y de la buena salud. Estuvimos juntos en Madrid con los Reyes de España y los Duques de Soria, en Nueva York con los Duques de Soria, en Monterrey con el Rey Felipe VI, entonces Príncipe de Asturias, en París con los Duques de Soria y en Roma con el Duque de Soria.

Pero sobre todo fue muy importante para mí acompañarte en Buenos Aires en 2013, donde tuve la doble satisfacción de verte elegido Presidente por tus colegas hispanistas de todo el mundo, y de asistir al acuerdo de la Asamblea de hispanistas de fijar en Soria su Sede mundial.

En julio de 2016 nos hiciste el honor de pronunciar en Soria la lección inaugural del acto académico central de la Fundación y de participar en la presentación de una gran escultura de bronce, donada por su autor, Greg Wyatt, que desde entonces adorna el jardín de la sede que la AIH y la FDS compartimos. Poco después, en Münster, el Duque de Soria y yo, con Pepe Ponga, te acompañamos en la Asamblea de hispanistas que presidiste con tu habitual acierto.

Sabes que en mí, en los Duques de Soria y en todos los que formamos su Fundación, tienes un grupo de amigos siempre a tu disposición, tan irreductibles como los mismos numantinos.

Un gran abrazo,

Rafael Benjumea

Presidente del Patronato, FDSCCH