Hands down my favorite professor at UVA

 By Brandi Durkac Farmer
David was hands down my favorite professor at UVA.  His class, Conservation Cinema, was my favorite class across my four years on grounds.  I only wish I had met David sooner in my undergraduate experience.  Although I didn’t have as many years with him as those of you who were fortunate enough to have him as an advisor or colleague, I am very grateful to have connected with him and to have reconnected with him when I returned for visits to Charlottesville over the years.  Now working in university advancement, I am reminded every day of how formative the special relationship between a professor/educator and a student can be!
With gratitude and admiration,
Brandi Durkac Farmer
CLAS 2000
The photo below is of David and me, along with the late Professor Charles Julian Bishko, at my graduation from CLAS in May 2000.  Professor Bishko, or “Julian” as we preferred to call him, was my grandfather’s first cousin and taught at UVA through 1978.  He was a distinguished historian of medieval Iberia.

Teachable Moments

By Jennifer J. McCune

I first met David, at that time Mr. Gies to me, almost 24 years ago, the fall of 1994, when I first began my graduate studies at UVa. He ended up becoming my advisor for both my Master’s Thesis and my Doctoral Dissertation, and yes, he taught me tremendously academically throughout my 6 years as a graduate student at UVa, and he also imparted other incredible lessons that shaped my life in very meaningful ways.

First notable memory and teachable moment with David – he was going to help watch some small children one weekend; I cannot even remember whose, etc. He shared a hysterical depiction of what had transpired that had the whole class laughing to the point of crying. Prior to watching the kids, he planned numerous different activities – puzzles, games, books, so many that we were exhausted just listening to him share what they were. He looked at us with that incredibly sparkly, gleaming look in his eyes and said that once those 10 minutes were up, he didn’t know what to do with the rest of the day with the kids! It stuck with me throughout the years and was that much more impactful when I had my own kids – and oh so true it turned out to be!

Second notable memory and teachable moment with David – I was going through a rough patch during my academic career, and David was nice enough to give me some of his time and advise me through some bumps. As we were talking, he shared with me that he always knew that he would be happy doing whatever it was that he decided upon because that would embrace the decisions he made. That really stuck with me – happiness is a decision and a choice and that we all have options to move forward in life.

Third notable memory and teachable moment with David – live life to the fullest! This has been something I have observed in David and Janna when I was at UVa and since graduating. We are connected via social media and I see him in the community. He continues to be involved in matters which are important to him, he pursues academic opportunities, and he travels and spends time extensively with his incredible wife, Janna, and the kids and grandkids in their life. He is the epitome of successfully having it all, in my mind, and I love seeing that role model.

My list of notable memories and teachable moments could go on and on, but ultimately, I want to thank David for being a mentor and a friend during very critical, formative junctures in my life. I generally choose the road less traveled in most everything I do, and I have David, among other inspirational people in my life, to thank for having the courage to do so.

Jennifer J. McCune, Ph.D.

Not Your Average Superstar

By Matthieu P. Raillard

To say that David has had an impact on my career would be an understatement.  Prof. Gies is one of the main reasons that I became a professor, and I owe him not only the discovery of the fascinating Spanish eighteenth century, but also for all of his help throughout my career.  I was a somewhat disoriented M.A. student when I took his survey course on Enlightenment and Romanticism, and I was inspired by the manner in which he made fascinating these authors and works that, let’s face it, often have a reputation for being cold or prosaic.

He was always there to support me, be it as my professor, as my dissertation director, or as my mentor after I left UVA.  We’d all heard horror stories about superstar academic who treat their students like garbage, yet with David it was the opposite.  I always felt that he was there for me, it didn’t matter that I was “just” a grad student, or a fellow academic at a conference.  David has taught me that being a famous, respected professor doesn’t have to mean that you are aloof, distant, or condescending to students and other professors. Quite the contrary- I always felt that he genuinely wanted all of us to succeed, and time and again gave us the opportunities and support to do so.  He made me us all feel as if we were part of the one big family, and to this day I believe that attending UVA was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  I am eternally grateful to count him as a professor and a friend.

Matthieu P. Raillard

Lewis & Clark College


By Alvin (Lin) Sherman

            There are people who enter and pass through one’s life, leaving few evidences of their presence. There are others who one would simply prefer to forget. There are still a select few who come into one’s life and impact it for a lifetime. David Gies was one of those few, select souls who came into my life and influenced my way of seeing, understanding, and appreciating the world around me.

            My time at the University of Virginia did far more than provide me with an amazing education. I had the privilege of being mentored by David and of working as his research assistant. He never hesitated to give credit in his publications of the work that his assistants gave. His classes were enthralling. One of my favorites was a course on Romantic Theater. His enthusiasm and engagement with the subject was contagious. He was also a bit sneaky! As part of the class we read volumes of critical articles. I remember getting to class to discuss the articles. He would ask us what we thought of the readings. Of course, we wanted to impress our professor with our intellect, so we would begin to laud article after article. Then, at the appropriate moment, David would say something like, “Such-and-such article is terrible!” We quickly learned to read secondary articles more carefully. He taught us to be discerning and to not accept everything we read as “gospel truth.” I learned quickly that a published article doesn’t always communicate intelligence. On a broader scale, David taught me to pause, to think carefully about what I hear (or read), and then ask the right questions. I have tried to emulate his example in my own teaching.

            Our one-on-one conversations were engaging. I never felt like a “student.” David ALWAYS treated me as a person with ideas, opinions, and sacred beliefs. As a Mormon I could have felt out of place in that academic environment, but David never made my religion an issue. I am certain that he didn’t always agree with me, but I knew that he respected me and my opinion. He would listen carefully and then take the opportunity to teach. All of us know that he has an amazing sense of humor. His wit pushed the envelope and caused me to pause and think about what lay beyond the humor.

            David looked for opportunities to broaden our contacts and horizons. On one occasion I received a phone call from David with an invitation to dinner. He then added that I would be Isabel Allende’s dinner companion and would need to pick her up from her hotel and take her home. I was very nervous, but accepted (of course!!). It was an amazing experience to sit in on and participate in that conversation. He believed in giving his students as many opportunities to “rub elbows” with visitors to the university.

            David never tired of mentoring me (if he did, he never let on!!). Early in my career David would read and critique my writing, providing me with insights of how I could improve an article. The result was some very productive scholarly works. There is nothing better for any young scholar than to have a star like David to take time from his busy schedule to continue that valuable mentoring activity.

            We are all aware of David’s academic and intellectual successes as a writer, professor, administrator, and mentor. Most importantly is his humanness. While offering a short course at BYU David came to our home for dinner. At the time we had four young children. When he arrived at our home, our children were playing with their Rescue Heroes on the floor in the dining area. David came in and almost immediately fell to his knees and began to play with my children. David engaged with my children at their level and made them feel important. Priceless!

            I count myself fortunate to have David as a friend. With his dear wife Janna (who I love and respect) they continue to spread kindness, love, generosity and goodness to friends, family and strangers. Thank you for all that both of you offer those around you.

Abrazos, Lin Sherman (Ph.D. 1990)

Buenos modelos

By Linda Boone Bartlett

Given that the Enlightenment project of eighteenth-century Spain emphasized the importance of imitating buenos modelos, it is altogether fitting that I and countless other UVA students have found one of those outstanding examples in Virginia’s eminent teacher and scholar of the dieciocho: David T. Gies. David introduced me, among many others, to the thinkers, writers, and reformers of the Spanish Enlightenment, and nearly thirty years later I cannot think of that period without mentally hearing David catalog the Spanish –ar verbs that reflected the essential spirit of the Enlightenment project: “¡Educar! ¡Analizar! ¡Mejorar! ¡Iluminar! ¡Reformar! ¡Deleitar!…” His enthusiasm for this somewhat obscure era in Hispanism was infectious, making even el Padre Feijóo and his encyclopedic efforts to desterrar errores stimulating. In the years since I had that first M.A. class with David, I have come to realize fully something I only sensed at the time: my classmates and I were being educated, amused, enlightened, and scholastically improved by a modern-day ilustrado who shared the spirit of Jovellanos, Iriarte, los Moratín, and the other hombres de bien he brought to life so vividly in his lectures. David embodied the very ideals he was describing.

As I reflect on my now long-ago years at UVA, I remember again the debt I owe David and the other faculty for all they shared with me and other students during the formative years of graduate school: outstanding teaching, stellar scholarship, excellent mentoring, and, perhaps most notably, a genuine concern for us as individuals. The camaraderie of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese was truly special, an atmosphere of collegiality, collaboration, support, and cooperation that flowed directly from David’s personal ethos and leadership as department chair. The famous Gies hospitality (departmental picnic, countless parties and gatherings), warmth, and generosity helped keep us encouraged during the rigors of preparing for comps and the countless other stresses of being a graduate student.

The first picture I have included, of David and Paula Frías, is from Halloween 1987. 

Dressed as his dog Gruff, David was engaged in a serious conversation with Paula (likely about a recent play or film they had both seen), even as he revealed his playful nature. It is photographic evidence of the buen modelo David has provided: one can be a top-notch teacher-scholar and a kind, down-to-earth human being at the same time.

The second photo is of David, Betsy Lewis and me at MIFLC 2015, where David gave the keynote address.

He continues to serve as an inspiration, and I count myself fortunate to have known him as a professor, friend, and mentor for many years. I am profoundly grateful for all I have learned from his example.


Linda Boone Bartlett (MA, ’88, Ph.D., ’92)

Professor and Chair, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures

Furman University



David Gies, relentlessly encouraging and utterly devoted

By Christine Blackshaw Naberhaus

After my first year of graduate school at the University of Virginia, I had decided that I was not going to pursue a PhD. Unlike many of the students I knew in the doctoral program, and in my cohort completing the Masters degree, I had not found a subject that had lit a “fire in my belly” to make me want to keep studying and writing.

Consequently, I signed up for David Gies’s Enlightenment and Romanticism course because I thought it would best prepare me for the Comprehensive Exams. However, thanks to David, I found a period that not only inspired me to pursue a doctorate, but to continue studying Spanish literature. I was hooked.

Despite his polite, friendly demeanor, David was not an easy professor or dissertation director. He was demanding, attentive to detail, and honest in his critiques of my work. He was also relentlessly encouraging and utterly devoted to making me a better scholar and teacher. Whatever accomplishments I have made as a scholar, modest in comparison to his, I owe almost entirely to David.

Long after my time at UVA, David has continued to provide professional mentoring and support. When I present at conferences, he makes attending my sessions a priority. When I publish an article, he is one of the first to read it and send me unsolicited feedback.

David: I wish you the best of luck in your retirement, and I know that you will continue to inspire my envy with your jet-setting adventures!


Christine Blackshaw Naberhaus

Associate Professor of Spanish Literature and Culture

Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures

Mount Saint Mary’s University

Carpe Diem and Sapere Aude

By Margaret R. Ewalt

During my six years at UVA I noticed how equally as many female graduate students as male students looked to David Gies as a role model. After graduating, I have marveled how Mr. Gies continues to offer the gift of his time. Out in the profession he continues to mentor us, often facilitating scholarly opportunities at the most well-timed moments in a junior scholar’s career. Mr. Gies has also done a great job of modelling how to enjoy academic conferences to the fullest, including researching ahead and making dinner reservations at only the best local restaurants. I can honestly say that even though I don’t see him often, Mr. Gies’s lessons on embracing life have been sustaining me since 1998. None of us can predict when horrible moments strike, and the most important role Mr. Gies has modelled for me is facing personal tragedy with grace and maintaining faith that things will always eventually be ok. He’s helped me craft my own versions of carpe diem and sapere aude and I am forever grateful.

Margaret R. Ewalt
Ph.D. UVA 2001
Associate Professor of Spanish
Wake Forest University

(Professor) David T. Gies: Perpetual Teacher and Loyal Friend

By Mark Del Mastro

As a new graduate student at the University of Virginia in August 1989, my first encounter with “Professor Gies” was at his fall, annual welcome-back picnic for faculty and graduate students. From that moment forward to the present, he has remained a generous teacher, counselor and friend. I have been fortunate to work with him in many contexts to include the AIH, Sigma Delta Pi, and the AATSP, and I will be forever grateful for his continual guidance and advice on a myriad of professional topics, and I will always admire his tenacious optimism. Knowing David, “retirement” will only be from his official post at UVA, but his feverish pace on both personal and professional levels will undoubtedly continue for many years to come. I wish him and Janna the best during this new chapter in their wonderful lives.
Mark P. Del Mastro
Chair and Professor, Hispanic Studies
College of Charleston

July 6, 2017, Dr. David T. Gies at far right with fellow members of Sigma Delta Pi’s Orden de Don Quijote (left to right) Mark P. Del Mastro, Bill VanPatten, Domnita Dumitrescu and Benjamin Fraser during the Sigma Delta Pi reception at the AATSP conference in Chicago.


Dear Mr. Gies

By Andrea Smith

January 10, 2018

Dear Mr. Gies,

As you now know, Betsy Lewis and Jeff Bersett sent an email to your friends and colleagues far and wide, requesting content for an homage to you and your career. After deliberating over what to write, about how to express what you have done for me and what you have meant to me as a scholar and a teacher and a human being, I find myself speechless. Humor me, then, while I resort to what other academics do in this case: I will quote myself.

I said it best in the single sentence addressed to you in the acknowledgments of my dissertation: “David Gies’ generosity with his time, expertise, and resources can be neither described nor repaid; all I can say is thank you.”

I said it more eloquently and specifically in the two letters below. Since then—the second letter is dated 2014—you have continued to encourage and mentor me. You have helped me with NEH grant proposals, you have written me even more recommendations, you have eulogized a beloved mentor (Donald Shaw) in a way that helped me grieve, you have publicized my scholarship when I didn’t have the confidence to do so myself. Truly, there is too much to say, and attempting to express it all seems ludicrous at this point.

Congratulations on a rich, distinguished, and meaningful career. And, one more time, thank you.

Con mucho cariño,



Andrea Smith davidgies nominations

David Gies Changed My Life

By Dan Anglin

David and Janna,
Congratulations and thank you for everything. This video clip constitutes my best attempt to express my gratitude for everything you have done for me!

Remarks by Dan Anglin, Principal of the Prince Henry Group and 1992 graduate of UVA with a BA in Spanish, at a benefit dinner for the Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese at Georgetown’s Four Seasons hotel, April 2014 .