Community Member Gilberto Perez

Gilberto Perez

Gil's presence in our community was nothing short of uplifting; he was an inspiration in the very standard to which he held himself about scholarly inquiry, while simultaneously entertaining a constant dialogue with his colleagues about his and their own intellectual preoccupations. That is, his generosity and interest in the work of others was as consistent as his productivity in solitary reflection on the relationship between art and the world. In conversations with him on a path, or in the dining room, one found oneself revisiting the ideas of Hegel, of Aristotle, or Henry James, and sometimes of Adorno, Meyer Shapiro, and (even) Abraham Lincoln. Indeed, who will now talk to me passionately about Quintilian on rhetoric?

The delight Gil took in sharing ideas was as apparent in his encounters with students. In the "Acknowledgments" section of his marvelous book, he announces: “My students over the years...have taught me as much as I have them.” Many of them, while in awe of the level of thought he promoted, expressed as much affection and admiration for him.

Etymology reveals that the word “snob” derives from “sine nobilis,” a reminder that the measure, instead, of the aristocratic mind and heart is the thoroughgoing recognition of, and pleasure in, all aspects of life, of persons, of human endeavor... Gil was an aristocrat in every facet of his engagement with others; his kindness and decency were addressed to everyone and were part of what made him so beloved among students, all the more significant since he did not so much indulge them as push them soberly to realize their ultimate potential.

Gil was the real thing, the keeper of the flame of the highest aspirations of intellectual pursuit. We will no longer see his by-line in the London Review of Books, Raritan, The Yale Review; but we will remember so much that his writing taught us. If he could hear our present lamentations, he would surely remonstrate and say: “don’t mourn; keep on working, for knowledge is beautiful.”

Angel Moger
French Faculty Emerita