We are sad to announce the passing of Clarence Giese, one of three beloved founders of IES Abroad. Clarence passed away on Monday, July 16, 2018 at the age of 93.
Clarence, and his wife Alberta – who sadly passed away last September – were married for close to 70 years. In September 1950, the newlywed couple boarded the SS Vollendam along with 21 other American students to begin their journey to Vienna. They spent the next year living and studying in the Austrian capital. Paul Koutny, an idealistic Austrian Holocaust survivor and subsequent 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.
The Gieses were so inspired by their Viennese adventure that upon returning home, they helped Mr. Koutny continue to bring another group of students to Vienna. The study abroad experiences changed their lives. And thus, the Institute for European Studies (now IES Abroad) was born.
Clarence was part of the Vienna Center for more than 20 years. He taught art in Vienna, and was an exceptionally talented artist who exhibited in numerous galleries. He was inspired by the landscapes and the history of Vienna, and continued painting when he moved back to the United States up until his passing.
Clarence and Alberta were committed to expanding the cultural understanding of students. They worked towards this mission on an organizational level and in their individual interactions with students in Vienna. In a 2015 interview, alumni Denis Ring (Vienna 1976-77) shared about his friendship with the Gieses as part of IES Abroad’s 65th anniversary celebration.
“When I look back on the IES Abroad experience, the most salient, life changing, and most personally informing experience was my personal relationship with Clarence and Alberta Giese,” Denis said. “What struck me about Clarence and Alberta was that I had never seen a husband and wife team who had pioneered such an adventuresome, well-designed program in my life. I had never seen a married couple who had the courage to leave the United States, move to Vienna to try to help rebuild the city… If I look at role models in my life, certainly Clarence is one of the most influential. I’ve always admired his courage to follow his convictions and to take steps to do something meaningful and honest.”
Clarence was incredibly dedicated to IES Abroad, and wrote the following in the Vienna Program, 25 Years, 1950-1975 anniversary book: “What has always seemed vital about the Institute is that it was conceived by a group of students – Austrian and Americans. They were filled with idealism and optimism; yet they had neither money nor experience. They had no training for such a venture. The Institute developed out of a Begeisterung and willingness to sacrifice time and energy for the sake of implementing goals, which could have an impact on two quite different countries. Looking back on those 25 years I know that changes have come about in both Austrian and Americans through the work of IES Abroad … alumni, faculty and friends give proof to this and provide us with continued hope for the future.”
Upon their departure from IES Abroad in the 1970s, Clarence and Alberta homesteaded while rearing their children and eventually counseled persons with AIDS on a Native American Indian reservation in New Mexico prior to retiring in Albuquerque, NM.
“I will miss Clarence’s annual letters which he would send to me at the beginning of a new year,” Mary M. Dwyer, President & CEO of IES Abroad reflected. “Clarence continued to remain in contact with and inspire many of our alumni. I will miss the opportunity to exchange ideas with Clarence and Alberta, but I find solace in the fact that they impacted thousands of young Americans’ lives for the better. So many of the students with which they worked have since become effective leaders and inter-culturally competent world citizens.”
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, we created a video to honor the founding of IES Abroad, which features Alberta and Clarence’s story.
Clarence will always be remembered as an important founder of IES Abroad, an inspiration, and a key influencer of study abroad. He left behind an amazing legacy and will be deeply missed, along with his wife Alberta. Clarence is survived by his daughters, Sarah, Claudia, and Erika, and son Benedict.
Our thoughts go out to Clarence’s family, and his legacy will live on through all our future students.
Please join us in honoring Clarence's legacy by sharing your condolences, stories, and photos, which we will compile and share with the Giese family.