We are sad to announce the passing of Alberta Giese, a beloved founder of IES Abroad. Alberta passed away on September 17, 2017, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the age of 92.
Alberta and her husband Clarence, who were married for close to 70 years, were two of three original founders of IES Abroad. Their story as founders began 67 years ago on a trip to Vienna.
In September 1950, 23 American students boarded the SS Vollendam to begin their journey to Vienna where they would spend the next year living and studying in the Austrian capital. Paul Koutny, an idealistic Austrian student who envisioned the project while living in the United States on a Fulbright scholarship, met the students at the ship and escorted them to Vienna.
Alberta and Clarence, young newlyweds from Chicago, were among those wide-eyed and eager students who believed that a year of living and studying abroad would enrich their lives and give them a deeper understanding of another culture. Alberta and Clarence were so inspired by their Viennese adventure that upon returning home, they helped Paul bring another group of students to Vienna — and then another and another. The study abroad experiences changed their lives. And thus, the Institute for European Studies (now IES Abroad) was born.
Since Alberta co-founded IES Abroad, the organization has grown enormously, sending 6,500 students to 140 study and internship programs in 33 locations across the globe. While the world has changed dramatically in the last 67 years, we’re proud that our mission and vision remains the same as when Paul, Clarence, and Alberta founded IES Abroad — to offer students unmatched global educational experiences.
Alberta was wonderfully talented and beloved by the students she assisted for several decades. She invented the role of the student affairs professional at IES Abroad and played many critical roles. She was a part of the Vienna Center for many years, inviting generations of students into her home where she treated them with her famous brownies. Alberta was also in charge of the alumni program in Vienna, corresponding regularly with our loyal Vienna alumni. For Vienna alums from the first 27 years of our existence, Clarence and Alberta were the heart of IES Abroad.
In 2010, in recognition of the 60th anniversary of IES Abroad, the Clarence and Alberta Giese Endowed Scholarship was established to honor the Gieses. The endowed scholarship fund provides financial aid for need-based scholarships to students attending a program at our IES Abroad Vienna Center. Additionally, in honor of IES Abroad’s 60th anniversary, we created a video to honor the founding of IES Abroad, which features Alberta and Clarence’s story.
Alberta will always be remembered as an important founder of IES Abroad, and a key influencer of study abroad. She left behind an amazing legacy and will be deeply missed. She is survived by her husband Clarence; her daughters, Sarah, Claudia, and Erika; and her son Benedict.
Our thoughts go out to Alberta's family, and we're confident her legacy will live on through all our future students.