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Antonio Gil retires after 37 years of service at the University of Florida


Antonio Gil has announced that he will retire at the end of summer 2018, precisely 37 years after beginning his career at the University of Florida in Fall 1981.

Although Antonio (Tony) has spent his entire career as one of the pillars of our beginning Spanish program (originally for the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures and now for the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies), he has taught grammar courses at all undergraduate levels and, most recently, served as assistant to the chair in a number of administrative functions.

Antonio was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1946, in a downtown home that figures frequently in photographs of the city. His father was an engineer and entrepreneur who, besides providing bottled gas to the population, also operated a repair shop for heavy equipment. When the family came under pressure from the Castro regime in 1959, Antonio was sent as a 14-year-old to stay with a friend of the family in Mexico. He initially enrolled in a parochial school and later a military school, where he had a distinguished academic record. He also worked for the Asociación Mexicana Automovilística during this time. In 1968 Antonio was admitted to the University of Oregon, where he received in BA in Spanish and Italian in 1972. He spent the academic year 1973-74 in Pisa, Italy, where he was able to see the Leaning Tower and the Alps from his office window. From 1973 to 1978, he did graduate work at the University of Oregon, while at the same time working in a facility for mentally disabled adults.

From 1978 to 1981, Antonio taught Spanish at the Ohio State University, which coincided with the birth, in April 1981, of his beloved son A. J., who is now 37 years old and lives with his wife in Atlanta.

Antonio’s move to the University of Florida coincided with that of Prof. Reynaldo Jiménez, who had also taught at OSU. They assumed administrative responsibility for the lower-division Spanish program, with Antonio operating as right-hand man and chief problem solver for Reynaldo. Antonio worked in this capacity for a number of subsequent lower-division administrators. Over the years Antonio assumed more and more important administrative duties, including responsibility for student problems and special requests (a capacity in which his strong sense of personal responsibility earned him the moniker of “Dr. No”). More recently, especially after staff reductions in the departmental office, Antonio moved to a nearby office from which he is able to take over some office functions. In his student and administrative capacities he has been known to schedule as many as 16 weekly office hours.

Many of us felt that, with the retirement of French professor Al Smith in the early 90s, Antonio inherited the role of being the “soul” of our department (Kathy Dwyer-Navajas is the “heart”). He was born with a combination of rare gifts that have enriched our lives now for almost four decades. His sense of humor is rich and varied, and his laughter can be heard on a daily basis echoing through Dauer Hall. One may be sure that he is always laughing with others, never at them. He has a prodigious memory, recalling in detail events that for most of us have long ago faded into oblivion, to the extent that we are suspicious that he may be making them up. He is an amazing problem solver: people who offhandedly mention a problem they are dealing with to Antonio are often surprised to get a list of three or four possible solutions from him a couple of hours later. Antonio loves children and they love him immediately and instinctively — and not only when they suspect that he may be Santa Claus! He is now the proud grandfather of two little girls in England, who have christened him Bumpah. Finally, he is a true friend, always willing to go the extra mile to help friends who are in need, either with a 5:00 a.m. ride to the airport, a midnight trip to the hospital emergency room, or a place to stay during semester transitions. Antonio is much beloved among departmental faculty, but over the years he has also developed strong friendships with many of the graduate students he has helped supervise, including Mark Cox, Herlinda Flores, and Alex Torres.

I have often thought that no one is more suited to enjoy retirement than is Antonio Gil. He takes deep pleasure in all aspects of daily life: food, drink, sports, friendships, family, pets, and TV, just to name a few. We wish Antonio many happy years of enjoying life in all its fullness, and thank him for his 37 years of service on behalf of our department and our students.

— Associate Dean David Pharies