Fierce and Passionate Crusader for Libraries

By Karin Wittenborg

An homage to David Gies

It has been a singular pleasure to read all the accolades from David’s colleagues, friends, and students. What an impressive roster of credentials, achievements, and awards. Frankly, he makes a normal person look like a total slacker.

I know David in a different arena and I had hoped to surprise you with reports of one of his extracurricular activities. Alas, John Portman has already scooped me by mentioning in his tribute that David recruited him to the Library Advisory Committee.

David Gies loves libraries, especially the UVA Libraries. He is an ardent advocate and supporter, who embraces new ideas and practices, and is vocal in his appreciation of the library staff — especially of Miguel Valladares-Llata, Librarian for Romance Languages and Latin America Studies.

Since I retired at the end of 2014, I cannot vouch first hand for David’s campaign to restore the library link on the University’s home page, but it is totally characteristic of David’s attention to the things that matter and his commitment to making change happen. I have been told that sometime after my retirement, a redesign of the homepage omitted the libraries — and that David was outraged.

In typical David fashion, he sprang into action and organized a cohort of like-minded faculty and students who insisted that the libraries be reinstated on the home page — and they were in short order. I suppose that story could be apocryphal, but I believe that David was the fierce and passionate crusader who brought the libraries back to the center of the University — just as Jefferson had planned from the very beginning. We all shall be forever in his debt.

No one will be surprised when I say that David is a genuine bon vivant. He is a party waiting to happen.

I had the good fortune recently to join a UVA alumni travel plan to Portugal and Spain guided with great panache by David. At every turn, in addition to learning about history, culture, and architecture, David would also tell us about the local culinary treasures and lead us into incredible restaurants and cafes. He is just as knowledgeable about street food as he is about Michelin restaurants.

Part of David’s charm is that he is not a food or wine snob. He will effusively thank a guest who brings an expensive wine to dinner and he will appreciate every swallow. A few months later, he may tell you about a $7.99 bottle of red from Kroger that is very pleasing to the palate.

My greatest regret is that I was never was able to go on Semester at Sea with David and Janna.

To me, Janna and David are a magical couple. They complement each other and share the same adventurous spirit. They are always in motion, attending concerts, plays, and other performances locally and internationally. I can’t recall going to an event in Charlottesville where I didn’t encounter them — and learn about the next big thing.

With great appreciation,
Karin Wittenborg
University Librarian Emerita

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