David and Janna find the pleasure in every drop of life, everywhere they go

By Anna Brickhouse

David was the dean of the inaugural Semester at Sea voyage for UVA, and because he hired me I was able to travel with my husband and sons, then 4 and 7, to eight countries in Latin America. They will be 15 and almost 18 by the time of David’s party, and it is still a defining event of their lives, and ours. He put together an amazing adventure for us all, and made us happy every day to be there. I will always treasure that experience, and I learned so much by watching how David and Janna find the pleasure in every drop of life, everywhere they go. Eat, drink, ask questions, tell stories, laugh a lot–they know what they’re doing!

David and Janna, Bruce and I are so happy to celebrate tonight with you!


David’s leadership and friendship

By Judith Shatin

David and Janna are wonderful friends, and have been so for years. However, when David approached Michael and me about joining the Semester at Sea journey down the Pacific coast of Central and South America during the summer of 2007, we were somewhat skeptical. But he persisted, and we eventually agreed. Little did we know that this journey would turn out to be one of the highlights of our lives. This was a part of the world that we had never visited, and we still think of the rich friendships and unforgettable experiences. None of this would have been possible without David.
In addition to teaching courses in music (soundscape composition, including harvesting sounds ranging from hummingbirds to the sounds of the ship; and music theory, based on music of the countries we visited), I took students on a couple of memorable side-trips, including one to meet with musicians in Santiago. David also has the propensity for turning up just when he is needed, as he did at a program of my music in Santiago, where he stepped in and translated, no doubt improving upon, my remarks.
David has the extraordinary capacity to seemingly remember every person he meets, and certainly all of the students on this trip! He radiates positive energy, too rare a quality! On the rare occasions when problems arose, David was always ready to assist anyone who needed help. In sum, his friendship and kindness and the academic level that he both demonstrates and requires, elevated that entire experience, just as they have done throughout his career.

David T. Gies – What a CADSS!

By Reginald H. Garrett

Let me add my voice to the praise coming to David. David and I became friends through common interest in the Semester at Sea (SAS) program. David was, if not the first, certainly the most enthusiastic, faculty advocate for this sea-borne study abroad program when it came to the University of Virginia. I, on the other hand, was an outspoken skeptic. Then, in December, 2006, Provost Gene Block, after repeated entreaties, persuaded me to visit the SAS ship, the MV Explorer, in Nassau, the Bahamas, in early 2007. I confess to being susceptible to any sort of nautical adventure, particularly in the tropics in the dead of winter. I was immediately smitten with the ship and the notion that shipboard education could resurrect Jefferson’s ideal of an Academical Village where students and faculty live and learn together. Meantime,
David was making concrete steps to elevate awareness about the academic potentials SAS offers. One of his most significant contributions was the establishment of an informal committee consisting of past, present and future SAS Academic Deans, which were, by UVA’s agreement with the Institute of Shipboard Education, drawn from UVA faculty. Relying on the silly wit in which he sometimes revels, he dubbed this committee CADSS (Committee of Academic Deans for Semester at Sea). CADSS was an unsanctioned but very effective body that mentored new deans, partnered with ISE, reviewed and revised the SAS curriculum, and instilled a new sense of comradery across
the Grounds. As successive Academic Deans recruited instructors for semester-long voyages from the UVA faculty ranks, many boarded the ship as skeptics and returned as apostles. Of course, David was the perennial chair of CADSS, but of course, he was always the best choice. My interactions with David led to a friendship I cherish. Among many memorable moments was flying with David and Janna from Lima to Cuzco and on to Machu Picchu by train. I send them warmest wishes as they begin their retirement years. Knowing them, I know their path will be bound by the sentiment of  Constantine P. Cavalfy’s poem Ithaca, an homage to Homer’s Odessey — May there still be many a summer morning when, with such pleasure, such joy, you come into harbors seen for the first time… Hopefully, your voyage will last for years, so that you are (really, really) old by the time you reach the island, even wealthier in heart and mind with all you have newly gained on the way.
Reginald H. Garrett
Emeritus Professor of Biology

The embodiment of ebullience at UVA

By Jahan Ramazani

Dear David,

You are the embodiment of ebullience at UVA. Your vibrant enthusiasm, your tremendously strong will, your profound passion—these have made for so many friendships, for brilliant developments in the Spanish Department at UVA, the Faculty Senate, Semester at Sea, the Paramount, and eighteenth-century studies. You have been such a precious and dazzling colleague. The way you do everything with such joy and exuberance helps knock the dust off the grim grind of any committee, any meeting, any endeavor. You have an almost alarming but ultimately endearing way of locking into one-on-one exchange—such intensity of alertness, such wise and incisive questions, such spirited and playful engagement. There’s no one else who does it quite like you. Your shrewd, wise, and incisive questions about the things that truly matter have made a huge difference in my life and no doubt in the lives of many colleagues. Thank you for sharing the brilliant radiance of your heart, your intellect, and your soul with UVA and with all of us. Caroline and Cyrus and Gabriel (pictured on our first excursion on the ship to Turks and Caicos in January of 2009) join me in sending love and showering you and Janna with affectionate good wishes for the next phase.

Jahan Ramazani

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!



I strive to one day become David Gies.

By Julie Roa

During the Summer 2014 voyage of Semester at Sea, I got to sail as David’s Registrar.  What an amazing summer that was!  Having studied at the University of Virginia and then worked there for many years, I was well familiar with the name, but I hadn’t had too many chances to interact with David.  He always cracked me up in his speeches, I knew of his many accomplishments and once I even came by his office to introduce myself and ask why he didn’t come to more of our events (I ran the Multicultural office for Student Affairs), but it wasn’t until I got to live and work with him out at sea, that I understood what all the fuss is about.

David taught me to have fun while getting things done.  We had a big job and we often faced some serious things, but David’s approach is always light-hearted.  There was nothing that could take that great smile off of his face.  He led with grace and humor, always pointing to the bright side, and if there wasn’t one readily available, he’d say something wise like “if it hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end yet.”  When issues came up with students, fellow professors, missing books, change of plans or anything, he simply asked smart questions, gave options, encouraged and inspired. Offering wine always helped too!  One of the many things I loved about working with him was feeling his trust for the whole team, his genuine respect for absolutely everyone he encountered (even people who are not his favorites) and the fact that he always seemed to have time!  I couldn’t believe it.  He’s so prolific and involved in so many things, a friend of everyone and an active support for many, and yet he had the time to just sit and get to know me.  I felt that he is invested in everyone’s success.  David cheers people on, he builds people up, he openly offers knowledge, love and care.  It was such a joy to get to know him. I honestly strive to become him one day.

Early on in our voyage, I asked him what the secret to his success was.  He said that he naps daily.  In the four years since, I have enjoyed a blissful nap every day after lunch, and I preach the benefits of this practice to anyone who will listen.  Thank you David.  May our friendship always be strong.  I’m so glad we’re now neighbors!

There will simply never be another like you

By Marti Fessenden


Oh, what fun we had working together on the Semester at Sea Summer 2014 voyage!  You were a joy to work with and I gained a lifelong friend in the process.  We are so very happy for Janna and you!  We will watch with eagerness (and envy) as you take on “retirement.”  UVA is losing a brilliant, dedicated and fun professor and leader.  I believe your UVA footsteps will remain empty as there will simply never be another like you.   Much love from Suzanne, Sydney & me.  Marti

A Student  Development Professional in Disguise

By Sue Weitz

Fall 2010 Semester at Sea is such a favorite memory for me because of the strong administrative team and community built on the voyage. This community was largely due to Dr. David Gies, aka Dean David.

David and I had never met or actually even heard of one another prior to our voyage. When he heard he was going to be a co-dean with a student development professional, I think he was ready to resign. He seemed to have a lack of confidence in people holding such positions. To his credit, he reached out to me by email…he sent no message, just a picture of his dog, Chico. “Alright,” I thought. “A dog lover; this man must be OK!”

Following the picture, I heard rumors that he didn’t think this co-dean arrangement would work. Students should be focused on academics, and student affairs, some said, might get in the way of the UVA tradition of learning and scholarship. I remember when I first met David at an orientation  session on the UVA grounds. The first thing he asked me was “do I need to wear or bring a costume to the ship?” Asking about costumes was all it took, and I knew deep down inside of David was a student development guy after all!
I was lucky to meet this amazing man and was really blessed to work with him. Watching him give lectures, work leadership magic with the faculty, and motivate students to learn gave me total confidence Fall 2010 voyage was in great hands. David and I created a team built on mutual respect. We developed a true learning community by unifying the in- and out-of-the-classroom experience. It was a co-curricular success in a living-learning community of which Thomas Jefferson himself would be proud!


David, welcome to your new club: retirement. I know you still have much to contribute to the world, so only consider this a UVA retirement. Know that I look forward to seeing your next adventures. I honestly believe you are a faculty member who educates the whole person, educating the mind and the heart. Academic to your core, you have the chops of a student development professional in there, too. Welcome to that club, as well!

Congratulations on your retirement, Dean David. May your next chapter be filled with many voyages of discovery!

Sue Weitz

David Gies, Academic Dean, Semester at Sea Fall, 2010

By Judy McLeod

On a warm, bright summer afternoon, 2009 at a shade-dappled café on Charlottesville’s Mall over a glass of smooth red wine, David, with Janna’s smiling concurrence, hired me as Studio Art Faculty for Semester At Sea, Fall 2010 voyage.

David’s bright smile and twinkling eyes as he stated “well, fine, let’s do it” brought me joy and changed my life momentously, forever. Several Semester at Sea voyages later, I am eternally grateful to David for enthusiastically initiating this wonderful phase of my life.

I have come to know that David’s inspiration and leadership as Semester at Sea Academic Dean is, actually, deep and pervasive in all parts of his life. David sets sights high whilst he inspires and challenges all folks around him with his ebullience and brilliance. It is always a grand pleasure to encounter David.  I am grateful and I am always honored and I remain inspired.  Thank you David

Judy McLeod

Ships, Ahoy

by Adam Seid

Working with you during our years involved with Semester at Sea was one of the best professional experiences of my career. Thank you for the faith you put in me, the mentorship you always provide, and the warm hospitality you always show. Fall 2010 will always be in my heart, and you, my friend, were at the helm. All the best to you and Janna in your retirement. Your next act will be filled with adventure, no doubt.

Un gran abrazo,