John Gies was the descendent of a pioneer Montana family. He received his primary and secondary education in Montana and Wyoming (B.A. in English, University of Wyoming, 1963, and M.A. in English, University of Montana, 1965). John enlisted in the military, serving in the Far East Command before returning to the U.S. where he earned a direct commission to Second Lieutenant.
On the day President Kennedy was assassinated, John left his Ph.D. program at the University of Montana in response to JFK’s call, “…ask what you can do for your country”. During the Vietnam era he was an operations officer in the clandestine services of the Central Intelligence Agency with assignments in Washington D.C, Miami and Latin America. As a foreign area officer in the Army Reserve, he did frequent tours at the Army Intelligence Center and School, Ft. Huachuca, Arizona; and the Office of the Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Department of the Army, The Pentagon. He retired from the latter as a Colonel in the Foreign Liaison, and was simultaneously presented with a service award from the CIA for “exceptional service” contributions to the agency and the U.S. government.
His son, John, writes, “While my father’s success in the military and the CIA were myriad, he valued most his years in the classroom. His genuine enthusiasm for even the smallest successes in the classroom were always so uplifting. Remembering those time has helped me, time and again, sort out the truly important from the rest of it.”
John was hired by Henry Egbert to teach English at Sahuaro High School in 1970, a position he held until 1981. From 1981-1985 he taught English at University High School and Pima Community College. He also guest lectured at The University of Arizona. John retired from teaching in 1987.
Several comments from students and colleagues include:
Jan (Backus) Eagle, Sahuaro English teacher, “From 1973 to 1987 when John taught upper-division English courses, no finer teacher stood in front of a class anywhere in this nation. He was brilliant, witty, highly principled, fearless and demanding. Young people who took his senior English class were superbly prepared for college and life.”
Craig Carter, Manager of World Wide Marketing for Ventana Medical Systems (class of ‘73), “Gies’ writing class launched me on a 12-year journalism career in Arizona, New York and Washington D.C. Most importantly his role as a mentor and his moral authority have left a lasting mark on me, my work, and my personal life.”
Frank Hawke, Director, China Everbright Bank, Beijing, China, (class president of ‘72) writes “John Gies was flat out a great teacher. He did what all great teachers do – he changed us for the better.”
Carol Carter, CEO of LifeBound and Cougar Hall of Fame 2001, (class of ‘80) writes “John Gies was a pivotal influence in my senior year in high school when I turned from a very average student to someone who truly cared about learning and growing.”
Paula McKenna Block, Director, Travelers Aid Society of Tucson (class of ‘73) states, “John Gies was a wonderful teacher and was always inspired by the topics he was teaching. He had a great ability to help students be inspired. His contributions may be quite unheralded but they last forever in the lives of his students.”
During his retirement John lived in Green Valley. He died on November 22, 2004 and is survived by his former wife Darlene, two children, John and Lisa, and three grandchildren, Keegan, Katie and Sheridan.
Nominated by Janolyn Lo Vecchio, author and speaker (class of ‘73).