He sought and brought out the best in everyone
Gilbert Geis, Ph.D., CFE (1925 – 2012)
Gil Geis, a former ACFE president and one of its pillars, was a seminal white-collar crime researcher, author and teacher. But he'll be remembered best for his generosity of spirit.
Gil Geis was generous. He was also a giant in criminology research and education with more than 500 articles and book chapters and 28 books to his name. But after Gilbert Geis, Ph.D., CFE, died Nov. 10, 2012, at the age of 87, most who knew him said he was, above all, a kind and giving colleague and friend.
“Gil was an extremely intelligent and accomplished gentleman,” says Jeanette LeVie, CFE, the ACFE’s vice president – administration. “Someone with his background could easily intimidate you. But Gil was the warmest person I’ve ever met. He was genuinely interested in you and never wanted to talk about himself. I will miss his big smile and friendly manner.”
Francis T. Cullen, Ph.D., Distinguished Research Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati, said Dr. Geis wasn’t enthralled with his fame. “Regardless of a person’s status in the field — whether a well-known scholar or a little-known student — Gil would always take the time to stop, talk and take a genuine interest,” Cullen says. “In the very early days of my career, he had no reason whatsoever to befriend me; but he did. He read and commented on my work, and he sent me his articles to read. Thereafter, when our paths crossed, he would give me a warm handshake and ask about my family. I was fortunate to have had the chance to publish two papers with him.
“I was recently reminded of his generosity when he invited Cheryl Jonson, then one of my graduate students, to coauthor an essay celebrating Donald Cressey’s contributions,” Cullen says. “Nervous at first, Cheryl was heartened by Gil’s support and amazed at his capacity to take a competent draft and transform it into a compelling account. I assured Cheryl that this was an experience not unique to her!”
John Gill, J.D., CFE, vice president – education of the ACFE, remembers how Dr. Geis was able to put everyone at ease by confounding expectations. “When I started at the ACFE in 1995, Gil Geis was the president and a member of the Board of Regents,” Gill says. “I did not know of his reputation until I started studying more about fraud prevention and criminology. Virtually every academic article I saw on behaviors of white-collar criminals was either written by Dr. Geis or quoted him extensively.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect when I met him in person. In my mind, I had the image of a gray beard, a tweed jacket and a pipe. Boy, was I surprised. He did have the gray beard, but that was as far as the stereotype went,” Gill says. “He was very informal, almost to the point of being irreverent. He had a wicked sense of humor and loved to crack jokes during meetings.
“During one of the breaks, I introduced myself. When he found out I was a lawyer, he immediately began telling me about a new book he was working on about ‘crimes of the century.’ I have always been a ‘true crime’ buff, and we had a great discussion about the infamous kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh’s infant son — one of the cases to be featured in his book. I was amazed at his recall of facts and how quick witted he was. … Gil was a good friend. … He was fun to be with, and everyone that knew him loved him,” Gill says.
Michael L. Benson, Ph.D., professor in the University of Cincinnati School of Criminal Justice, also remembers Dr. Geis’ warmth and generosity. “When I was a new Ph.D. from Illinois and just getting started in the field, I sent Gil a copy of a paper I was working on and asked him for comments because the paper drew a lot from his work,” Benson said.
“Even though he didn’t know me at all, he sent the paper back to me practically by return mail all marked up in red ink with both editorial and substantive suggestions. He also sent a very encouraging letter. I took his advice and the paper … was eventually published. ... A couple of years later when I finally met him in person … he not only remembered me and the paper, but he made me feel like it was the best thing he had ever read (which clearly it was not by a long shot). I’ve never forgotten his kindness, and I’ve heard similar stories from many other people. He really was a good and most exceptional man.”
A BROOKLYN BOY
Dr. Geis’ beginnings were more humble than exceptional. Born Jan. 10, 1925, in New York City, he was raised in Brooklyn by his mother and grandmother. Mary Dodge, Ph.D., director of the Criminal Justice Programs in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado – Denver and a former student of Dr. Geis, remembers that he once said he partially credits his interest in criminology to his grandmother’s fervor for dime crime magazines. Dodge says Dr. Geis’ grandmother, a Polish immigrant, supported the family during the Depression by manufacturing bootleg liquor that was marketed through the infamous Dutch Shultz gang.
|Dr. Geis with Rudy Giuliani
As a teenager Dr. Geis worked as an usher on Broadway and collected tickets at N.Y. Yankees’ and Giants’ baseball games before becoming a radioman in the Navy during World War II. He attended college under the GI Bill, earning a bachelor’s degree at Colgate University in New York (where he ran track). From 1946 to 1948 he worked as a reporter for the Times in Hartford, Conn., and then the Daily Home News in New Brunswick, N.J.
He received his master’s at Brigham Young University and a doctorate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Geis was a faculty member at the University of Oklahoma and California State University, Los Angeles, before joining the University of California - Irvine faculty in 1971, where he played a significant role in establishing the School of Social Ecology and the Department of Criminology, Law and Society. He retired in 1987 and remained extraordinarily active as a scholar and a mentor up to his final days. (Read more about Dr. Geis’ history in “Geis, Sutherland and white-collar crime.”)
SIMPATICO WITH DR. WELLS
Dr. Joseph T. Wells, CFE, CPA, founder and Chairman of the ACFE, met Dr. Geis at a 1986 retirement party for Dr. Donald R. Cressey, another renowned criminologist and a father of the ACFE. (See “Gil Geis: Simply no one like him.”) Dr. Wells later shared with Dr. Geis his vision of forming an association that would create well-rounded fraud fighters by teaching them skills in accounting and auditing, law, investigations, and fraud prevention and deterrence. Dr. Geis wholeheartedly agreed that the theoretical and the practical needed to be married, and he would lend his expertise.
Steve Albrecht, Ph.D., CFE, the first president of the ACFE, and one of the developers of the Certified Fraud Examiner concept, said Dr. Geis loved the ACFE. “He told me many times that the ACFE is exactly what is needed — an organization to bring together people with different backgrounds to fight the growing problem of fraud,” Albrecht said. “He told me that whatever he could do to help the ACFE succeed, he would do it.”
Dr. Geis later wrote the entire criminology section of the ACFE’s Fraud Examiners Manual in less than six months and worked on subsequent editions. He also spoke at conferences. “I attended the first class the ACFE presented in Austin, Texas, in 1989 for those of us who were new fraud examiners at the time, where I was privileged to sit at the feet of the masters who wrote this original fraud material, including Dr. Geis,” says Regent Emeritus Joseph R. Dervaes, CFE, ACFE Fellow. “To this day I can still remember watching and listening to him as he made his presentation on criminology from the podium during that class. It was absolutely amazing.” Dervaes wasn’t the only one enamored with Dr. Geis’ teaching fervor. No one who stepped into his classrooms ever snoozed.
| Dr. Geis circa 1990s
Dr. Geis was totally committed to education. During an interview last year with Valerie Jenness, Ph.D., dean of the School of Social Ecology at the University of California - Irvine, Dr. Geis said, “What I see education as almost uniquely doing is trying to convey a sense of excitement about knowledge, about knowing things, about learning things.
“The facts change in three years anyway. But I want them to think that it’s exciting, it’s interesting, it’s fun. All that I can convey to them is that I find learning worthwhile,” he said.
However, his teaching couldn’t be contained in the classroom. “Ultimately, like so many of his other students, I wanted Gil to feel proud of me,” says Robert F. Meier, Ph.D., professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. “He was my most important teacher. Did I ever have a class from him? No. My learning was more experiential. He was my intellectual father. I felt I just didn’t want to disappoint him,” Meier says.
“Gil became my intellectual focal point. Some of my interactions with Gil were informal and unrelated to academic matters. In those moments he didn’t talk like he was teaching, but his talk was always instructional to me,” Meier says. “He taught me about being an academic and living a life of the mind. And, he taught me the substance of criminology and the method of thinking and writing about that substance. Upon reflection, he was always teaching me things. It was his nature, and he did it without conscious plan. But, he did it all the time.”
Dr. Geis was a perpetual teacher partially because he was a voracious reader. “I read endlessly and very eclectically,” he told Jenness. “The New York Times publishes the best 100 non-fiction books of the year, and I read every one of them because I want to force myself to read stuff that I otherwise wouldn’t go near. It sometimes takes several years to read one year of recommended books, and then I just start all over again on a newer list.”
STRONG SHOULDERS OF A PREMIER RESEARCHER
“Gil Geis is best known for being, in essence, the second father of white-collar crime,” says Cullen. “[Edwin] Sutherland, who invented the concept of white-collar crime, is seen as the original dad of the field. But after Sutherland died somewhat prematurely in 1950, few scholars remained to carry on his tradition. To a large extent, Gil Geis performed this role, almost single-handedly keeping alive the study of upper-world criminality until the topic resurfaced in the mid-1980s,” says Cullen, who was also past president of the American Society of Criminology (as was Dr. Geis).
“Gil’s work on white-collar crime that sprung to prominence in a criminology that was taking little interest in white-collar crime was his research on the heavy electrical equipment conspiracy of 1961,” says John Braithwaite, Ph.D., distinguished professor at The Australian National University (ANU), founder of RegNet (the Regulatory Institutions Network) at ANU and the first recipient of the ACFE’s Donald R. Cressey Memorial Award in 1989. “This saw for the first time vice presidents of really major corporations like General Electric and Westinghouse sentenced to imprisonment for a corporate crime. (See “ ‘The only reason we are here is because of Gil Geis’ ” below this article.)
|Dr. Geis shooting hoops at an Annual Fraud Conference
“Thanks to the work of Gil Geis, when Watergate came, there was a foundation of scholarly excellence in white-collar crime research. After Watergate, criminological interest in white-collar crime surged,” Braithwaite says. “And some great graduate students migrated to work with Gil at the University of California - Irvine, and hordes of undergraduates enrolled in his inspiring white-collar crime course, which I had the honor of teaching under Gil’s mentorship as a Fulbright post-doctoral fellow in 1979-80.
“Gil was an inspiring communicator in both the spoken and written word. He enlivened the thought and the consciences of all who encountered him. Criminology as a discipline is permanently transformed because Gil Geis graced this planet,” Braithwaite says. “It no longer neglects fraud as one of its central topics. Gil was also lucky that he met Joseph Wells [founder and Chairman of the ACFE]. This allowed him, like Don Cressey before him, to consolidate his accomplishment within the walls of academe into an accomplishment that was rolled out into the world of practical fraud control. Gil’s contribution and his character will never be forgotten and will live on in the field and the people he helped build.”
BRINGING OUT THE BEST IN EVERYONE
Richard Wright, Ph.D., curators’ professor of criminology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, recalls the passage that Dr. Geis would read from “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” by Hannah Green, at the conclusion of Dr. Geis’ famous white-collar class at the University of California – Irvine.
“The passage describes why two mental hospital attendants, Hobbs and McPherson, evoked such different responses from their charges,” Wright says. “I still can see Gil in my mind’s eye, standing on the stage in front of a packed lecture hall, reading these lines, with Pandy, his white Scottie, sitting at his feet:
|Dr. Geis, Nancy Bradford, CFE, CIA, CPA, and
Frank Howatt, CFE, visit after a Board of Regents meeting.
Hobbs was a little brutal sometimes, but it was more than that. He was frightened of the craziness he saw around him because it was an extension of something inside himself. He wanted people to be crazier and more bizarre than they really were so that he could see the line which separated him, his inclinations and random thoughts, and his half-wishes, from the full-bloomed, exploded madness of the patients. McPherson, on the other hand, was a strong man, even a happy one. He wanted the patients to be like him, and the closer they got to being like him the better he felt. He kept calling to the similarity between them, never demanding, but subtly, secretly calling, and when a scrap of it came forth, he welcomed it. The patients had merely continued to give each man what he really wanted. There was no injustice done. …
“That passage stands as a fitting tribute to Gil who, for all his extraordinary accomplishments, never lost sight of the fact that we share a common humanity that should be cherished and nurtured,” Wright says. “He was the real-life equivalent of McPherson. He sought and brought out the best in everyone he met. That’s how he lived his life.”
Dick Carozza, CFE, is editor in chief of Fraud Magazine.
Thanks to Henry N. Pontell, Ph.D., for assistance with this article.
Please see bottom for all the comments we received about this remarkable man. — ed.
'The only reason we are here today is because of Gil Geis'
He left a rich legacy of white-collar crime research
Gilbert Geis, Ph.D., CFE, who was known for his disciplined determination to develop a “life of the mind,” had a long and distinguished history of contributions to social policy and practice as well as to criminological scholarship.
He was a member of Lyndon Johnson’s President’s Commission on Crime, and he was a past president of the American Society of Criminology, which presented him with its highest academic honor, the Edwin Sutherland Award. The National White-Collar Crime Research Consortium named its distinguished scholar award in his honor. More than a decade ago, colleagues contributed original pieces to a book in his honor. (See “Geis, Sutherland and white-collar crime,” by Robert F. Meier, Ph.D.)
Dr. Geis’ work, which spanned eight decades, is notable for its superb interdisciplinary quality, quantity and remarkable breadth over a number of fields, including sociology, psychology, history, criminology, criminal justice, law, media studies, education and policy studies as well as many sub-disciplines. A partial list of topics includes education issues, race relations, Scandinavian studies, the death penalty, film censorship, prisons, prostitution, crime and crime victims, policing, community corrections, rehabilitation, organized crime, prisoner rights, rape, homicide, victimless crimes, legal ethics, drugs, violence, social problems, good Samaritans, compensation, restitution, deterrence, witch trials, criminal justice policy, research methods, the O.J. Simpson case, the UCI fertility clinic scandal, medical fraud and white-collar and corporate crime. It’s this last area for which he became best known.
HEAVY ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT CONSPIRACY
In 1967, Dr. Geis published what was to become a seminal study in criminology — three decades after Edwin Sutherland’s introduction of the concept of white-collar crime had passed without any serious additional research or fanfare. White-collar crime scandals were back on the criminological radar with the publication of “The Heavy Electrical Equipment Antitrust Case of 1961” which appeared as an invited chapter in the book, “Criminal Behavior Systems: A Typology,” edited by Marshall Clinard and Richard Quinney.
His single piece of scholarship helped spawn a new generation of researchers whose primary agenda was the study of white-collar and corporate crime. The importance of Dr. Geis’ professional contribution to the interdisciplinary study of white-collar crime can’t be overstated.
As Dr. Geis documented, the climate of ferocious competition that existed among large electrical equipment companies, including Westinghouse and General Electric, had led firms to conspire rather than compete in ruthless price wars that hurt profits. Instead of submitting competitive sealed bids for lucrative government contracts, executives began holding secret meetings at which they would agree in advance on prices and divide up the contracts among their respective firms. The companies had effectively formed an illegal cartel — a flagrant violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
Dr. Geis found strong support for Sutherland’s theory of differential association in the responses of executives to their offenses. The rationalizations used to justify their crimes strongly reflected attitudes learned within the corporate subcultures. Equally important, Dr. Geis’ path-breaking work documented the vast inequalities in the criminal justice system when it came to the sanctioning of powerful defendants, which in this case included both individuals and companies.
Ultimately, fines totaling about $2 million were handed out — mostly to GE and Westinghouse. Given the pecuniary magnitude of the crimes that cost billions of dollars over a number of years, the amount seems insignificant. Dr. Geis noted that a $400,000 fine levied at General Electric would be equivalent to a man earning $175,000 a year receiving a $3 parking ticket (Geis, 1967).
The profound impact of Dr. Geis’ work was shown in a remark made some 30 years ago by former Yale sociologist Stanton Wheeler, who told his law school students on the first day of their white-collar crime seminar, “The only reason we are here today is because of Gil Geis.”
OTHER MAJOR WORK ON WHITE-COLLAR CRIME
After Dr. Geis’ initial foray into the topic, he didn’t return to the subject of white-collar crime for five years. He wrote on other issues in crime and criminal justice, including victim compensation and victimization, female offenders, drugs, victimless crimes and rape.
He resumed his work on corporate crime in 1972, focusing on punishment, and in the following year published the first major criminological piece on the deterrence of corporate crime (Geis, 1973) in a book co-edited by Ralph Nader. This was followed by collaborative work with Herbert Edelhertz, a lawyer and applied social scientist, on criminal law and consumer crimes and an overview piece on white-collar crime published in a leading criminological text (Geis, 1974).
In the late 1970s, Dr. Geis began to concentrate his work in the areas of white-collar and corporate law breaking. Among other topics, he published on corporate violence, the white-collar offender and fraud against the elderly, and he produced a classic reader on white-collar crime with Robert Meier, which was updated with Lawrence Salinger in 1995 (Geis, Meier and Salinger, 1995).
In the early 1980s, he collaborated with John Braithwaite on a classic piece, “On Theory and Action for Corporate Crime Control” (Braithwaite and Geis, 1982). The paper suggested that corporate crime is a more feasible and significant crime control target than traditional crime and argued that the discredited doctrines of crime control by public disgrace, deterrence, incapacitation and rehabilitation can be successfully applied to corporate crime.
That same year he published a major treatise on white-collar crime (Geis, 1982) and the first in a series of a dozen articles and chapters on medical fraud emanating from a study funded by the National Institute of Justice on which he collaborated with Henry Pontell and Paul Jesilow (Pontell, Jesilow and Geis, 1982). That work culminated in the publication of the book, “Prescription for Profit: How Doctors Defraud Medicaid” (Jesilow, Pontell and Geis, 1993).
In 1983, Geis collaborated with Colin Goff on the now-classic introduction to the “uncut version” of Sutherland’s book, “White-Collar Crime,” published by Yale University Press (Geis and Goff, 1983). Among his numerous books and articles since are a major study with Mary Dodge, Ph.D., of the crimes committed at the University of California - Irvine medical school’s fertility clinic, “Stealing Dreams: A Fertility Clinic Scandal” (Geis and Dodge, 2003); an historical and analytical overview in “White-Collar and Corporate Crime” (Geis, 2007), which will soon be reissued by Oxford University Press; and edited volumes, including a special issue of “Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science,” (Jesilow and Geis,1993), and “International Handbook of White-Collar and Corporate Crime” (Pontell and Geis, 2007). His last book was “White-Collar and Corporate Crime: A Documentary and Reference Guide” (2011).
Gilbert Geis was a giant in the study of white-collar crime and fraud prevention whose keen sense of justice and humanity was evident in everything he wrote. He was also an ideal mentor and beloved colleague to so many. While we’ll miss him deeply, his intellectual legacy will continue to guide scholars and practitioners for years to come.
Henry N. Pontell, Ph.D., is professor of criminology, law & society and sociology at the School of Social Ecology at the University of California – Irvine. He was the recipient of the ACFE’s 2001 Donald R. Cressey Memorial Award.
Braithwaite, J. & Geis, G. (1982). “On theory and action for corporate crime control.” Crime and Delinquency, 28, 292 314.
Geis, G. (1967). “White collar crime: The heavy electric equipment antitrust case of 1961.” In M.B. Clinard & R. Quinney (Eds.), “Criminal behavior systems: A typology” (pp. 139-150). New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
Geis, G. (1973). Deterring corporate crime. In R. Nader & M.J. Green (Eds.), “Corporate power in America” (pp. 182-197). New York: Grossman.
Geis, G. (1974). Upperworld crime. In A.S. Blumberg (Ed.), “Current perspectives on criminal behavior: Original essays on criminology” (114-137). New York: Knopf.
Geis, G. (1982). “On white collar crime.” Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath.
Geis, G., & Goff, C. (1983). Introduction to E.H. Sutherland, “White collar crime: The uncut version” (pp. ix-xxxiii). New Haven: Yale University Press.
Geis, G., Meier, R.F., & Salinger, L.M. (Eds.). (1995). “White collar crime: Classic and contemporary views.” New York: Free Press.
Geis, G., & Dodge, M. (2003). “Stealing dreams: A fertility clinic scandal.” Boston: Northeastern University Press.
Geis, G. (2007). “White-collar and corporate crime.” Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Geis G. (2011). “White-collar and corporate crime: a documentary and reference guide.” Santa Barbara, Calif.: Greenwood.
Jesilow, P.D., & Geis, G. (Eds.). (1993). “White-collar crime.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 525.
Jesilow, P. D., Pontell, H. N., & Geis, G. (1993). “Prescription for profit: How doctors defraud Medicaid.” Berkeley: University of California Press.
Pontell, H. N., Jesilow, P. D., & Geis, G. (1982). “Policing physicians: Practitioner fraud and abuse in a government medical program.” Social Problems, 30, 117 125.
Pontell, H.N., & Shichor, D. (Eds.). (2001). “Contemporary issues in crime and criminal justice: Essays in honor of Gilbert Geis.” Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Pontell, H. N., & Geis, G. (Eds.). (2007). “International handbook of white-collar and corporate crime.” New York: Springer.
Member plants tree in Dr. Geis’ honor
| Thomas Stazyk, CFE, CISA, CPA, plants
a Kahikatea tree in honor of Gil Geis, Ph.D., CFE.
Thomas Stazyk, CFE, CISA, CPA, and his wife, Mahruku, recently planted Kahikatea trees in honor of Gil Geis, Ph.D., CFE, on the Stazyks’ New Zealand preservation farm, CUE Haven.
The Kahikatea, the tallest New Zealand native tree with heights up to 200 feet, lives for hundreds of years.
CUE Haven (short for Cultivating Understanding and Enlightenment) is 59 acres in Araparera, an hour north of Auckland. The Stazyks are converting the former cattle farm back to native forests and wetlands.
The Stazyks previously planted Kahikatea trees in honor of Dr. Donald R. Cressey, another ACFE pillar, and his wife, Elaine.
Dr. Gilbert Geis testimonials
I had the privilege of interacting with Dr. Geis several times during the early days of the ACFE. I was always impressed with his knowledge, his wit, and his interesting analyses of research and fraud cases. Like me, he was a full-time academic. Unlike me, he was an academic's academic. He never looked at anything like a layperson. He was bright, analytical and never accepted superficial explanations. But, he was also humble. I was with him two or three times before I realized how strong his academic reputation and record was. He was quiet but when he spoke it was always worth listening to and always provided great insights and wisdom.
I once had a debate with him about criminology and why people commit crime. He was telling me all these sociologically based reasons and I was trying to shoot holes through some of them. I came away from that debate thinking that he was much smarter than me and than I probably shouldn't debate him in public.
Interacting with him also helped me understand how much he loved the ACFE. He told me many times that the ACFE is exactly what is needed — an organization to bring together people with different backgrounds to fight the growing problem of fraud. He told me that whatever he could do to help the ACFE succeed, he would do it. I liked being with Dr. Geis. He was a breath of fresh air. He was a great listener. He was fun to be with. He was extremely knowledgeable and smart. He is one of the great reasons the ACFE has been so successful. I consider it a great honor to have known him and to have learned from him.
Steve Albrecht, Ph.D., CFE, CPA, CIA
First ACFE president
Andersen Alumni Professor of Accountancy
Marriott School of Management
Brigham Young University
What I remember most about Gil was his extraordinary warmth, generosity, and support for young scholars. When I was a new Ph.D. from Illinois and just getting started in the field, I sent Gil a copy of a paper I was working on and asked him for comments because the paper drew a lot from his work. Even though he didn’t know me at all, he sent the paper back to me practically by return mail all marked up in red ink with both editorial and substantive suggestions. He also sent a very encouraging letter. I took his advice and the paper (“Denying the Guilty Mind”) was eventually published in Criminology. A couple of years later when I finally met him in person, he not only remembered me and the paper but he made me feel like it was the best thing he had ever read (which clearly it was not by a long shot). I’ve never forgotten his kindness and I’ve heard similar stories from many other people. He really was a good and most exceptional man.
Michael L. Benson, Ph.D.
Professor and Director of the Distance Learning Master’s Program
School of Criminal Justice
University of Cincinnati
Gil Geis was a great mentor to me and many others who also lived as far away from California as Australia. Among those Gil mentored were Joseph Wells and the other great institution-builders of ACFE. And what a profoundly important institution that has turned out to be.
|Dr. Geis greets Joseph Dervaes, CFE, CIA, and Dennis Dycus,
CFE, CGFM, onstage an ACFE Annual Fraud Conference.
The study of fraud in criminology was put on the map by Edwin Sutherland in the 1940s. From the 1950s until Watergate only a few criminologists kept this field of scholarly research alive, notably Donald Cressey, Marshall Clinard and Gilbert Geis. Fortunately for the study of fraud, these were all truly great criminologists who all won the highest honour of the American Society of Criminology in the 1970s, the Sutherland Prize.
Gil’s work on white-collar crime that sprung to prominence in a criminology that was taking little interest in white-collar crime was his research on the heavy electrical equipment conspiracy of 1961. This saw for the first time vice presidents of really major corporations like General Electric and Westinghouse sentenced to imprisonment for a corporate crime.
Thanks to the work of Gil Geis, when Watergate came, there was a foundation of scholarly excellence in white-collar crime research. After Watergate, criminological interest in white-collar crime surged. And some great graduate students migrated to work with Gil at the University of California, Irvine and hordes of undergraduates enrolled in his inspiring white-collar crime course, which I had the honour of teaching under Gil’s mentorship as a Fulbright post-doctoral fellow in 1979-80.
Gil was an inspiring communicator in both the spoken and written word. He enlivened the thought and the consciences of all who encountered him. Criminology as a discipline is permanently transformed because Gil Geis graced this planet. It no longer neglects fraud as one of its central topics. Gil was also lucky that he met Joseph Wells. This allowed him, like Don Cressey before him, to consolidate their accomplishment within the walls of academe into a accomplishment that was rolled out into the world of practical fraud control. Gil’s contribution and his character will never be forgotten and will live on in the field and the people he helped build.
John Braithwaite, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor,
The Australian National University
Founder of RegNet (the Regulatory Institutions Network)
First recipient of the ACFE’s Donald R. Cressey Memorial Award in 1989
Gil Geis passed away right before the November meeting of the American Society of Criminology. When those of who knew Gil saw one another at the conference, our eyes would tear up and we would give one another an assuring handshake or hug. As we talked, a very raw sense of loss lingered; it hurt that Gil was gone. But we drew some solace from our mutual understanding that his was a life well lived.
To be sure, Gil Geis was special because of his scholarly contributions. His knowledge was encyclopedic, and his writing was on a level beyond the rest of us —simple and clear, yet evocative and compelling. He is best known for being, in essence, the second father of white-collar crime. Sutherland, who invented the concept of white-collar crime, is seen as the original dad of the field. But after Sutherland died somewhat prematurely in 1950, few scholars remained to carry on his tradition. To a large extent, Gil Geis performed this role, almost single-handedly keeping alive the study of upper-world criminality until in the topic resurfaced in the mid-1980s.
Notably, the grief we experienced upon his death was not because we would miss his commentaries on white-collar crime — though surely we will. Rather, it was because Gil was not just a special scholar but also a special person. I could use many wonderful adjectives to describe him, but I will select one that perhaps captures him best: generous.
Gil was not someone enthralled with his own fame. Regardless of a person’s status in the field — whether a well-known scholar or a little-known student — Gil would always take the time to stop, talk, and take a genuine interest. In the very early days of my career, he had no reason whatsoever to befriend me, but he did. He read and commented on my work, and he sent me his articles to read. Thereafter, when our paths crossed, he would give me a warm handshake and ask about my family. I was fortunate to have had the chance to publish two papers with him. I was recently reminded of his generosity when he invited Cheryl Jonson, then one of my graduate students, to coauthor an essay celebrating Donald Cressey’s contributions. Nervous at first, Cheryl was heartened by Gil’s support and amazed at his capacity to take a competent draft and transform it into a compelling account. I assured Cheryl that this was an experience not unique to her!
Gil’s enduring legacy thus is not only his scholarly writings but also the lives he so intimately and positively touched through his generous spirit and actions. He was a very good man — and he will be missed deeply.
Francis T. Cullen, Ph.D.
Distinguished Research Professor of Criminal Justice
University of Cincinnati
Past President, American Society of Criminology
I had the utmost admiration and respect for Dr. Geis. He was always the calm in the storm and a rock to the association. As the chairman of the ACFE Board of Review, I often turned to Dr. Geis for his deep-rooted ethical integrity. He was always fair and just. I admired him immensely. He will be missed.
Isabel Cumming, CFE
Assistant Inspector General of Investigation/Counsel
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
I was greatly saddened when I received the e-mail message from our Chairman, Dr. Joseph T. Wells, announcing the recent 2012 passing of renowned criminologist Dr. Gil Geis. The content of that message about his professional life and accomplishments said it all.
Dr. Geis was a true pioneer in the field of criminology and an early pillar of many leaders in the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. As a fellow recipient of the ACFE's prestigious Donald R. Cressey lifetime achievement award, Dr. Geis was a great personal friend, and a giant in the field of fraud examination. He wrote the criminology section of the ACFE's Fraud Examiners Manual, taught the material in the ACFE's early classes, and was our second president. He definitely left his mark in this world.
I attended the first class the ACFE presented in Austin, Texas, during 1989 to those of us who were new fraud examiners at the time, where I was privileged to sit at the feet of the masters who wrote this original fraud material, including Dr. Geis. To this day I can still remember watching and listening to him as he made his presentation on criminology from the podium during that class. It was absolutely amazing. I will truly miss him, and I know that other CFEs feel the same way. His passing represents an end to an era for those of who remain, and his professional accomplishments must be respectfully acknowledged.
I also will never forget his kindness and friendship to me over the many years of our professional association. In fact, we celebrated a great milestone in my fraud examination career together at Tom Golden's home in Chicago, Illinois, in July 2003 after I received the Cressey Award. I will always remember and cherish his thoughts of encouragement to me that day.
I have attended all of the ACFE's Annual Fraud Conferences, as did Dr. Geis, except for one or two times when he missed the event due to a personal or family illness. I frequently dined with him at conference luncheons and will always remember the support he expressed for the ACFE and its individual members.
Dr. Geis made a lasting impression on my fraud examination career, and I will do my best to follow in his footsteps by doing exactly the same for others in our profession as long as I am able.
Farewell old friend and professional colleague. You will always be missed and never replaced.
Regent Emeritus Joseph R. Dervaes, CFE, CIA, ACFE Fellow
“Always a Spring Chicken: Gilbert Geis”
Rarely do we get the opportunity to meet someone who will change the course of our lives. I was incredibly fortunate to have this happen when I met Gil Geis as a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Irvine. My first encounter with Gil in Paul Jesilow’s office initiated a series of fortunate events. Gil, who was always interested in students, proceeded to interrogate me about my potential dissertation topic. After explaining I was looking at death penalty issues or juvenile gangs, he commented: “That’s no good. If I were a graduate student, I would be looking at this UCI egg scandal.” The next day, Gil and I began a research project, which haunted and inspired part of our work for over 15 years. We never expected a project that would take us from Southern California to South America interviewing doctors, medical administrators, victims, whistle-blowers, and university officials.
Gil introduced me to the study of white-collar crime, which admittedly, was a topic I knew little about. Gil and I worked closely on my dissertation on the scandal at the Center for Reproductive Health and together published “Stealing Dreams: A Fertility Clinic Scandal” in 2009. I can still remember my fear of having him read the first chapter and the horror of seeing “red” (Gil was famous for his red editing marks), though I immediately realized this was a person who could teach me the skills I needed to become a better academic. In fact, we are all better for having the knowledge and depth of scholarship Gil left behind.
When I think of Gil, I reflect on the small things that made Gil who he was. And those are the things I’ll miss most. I’ll miss the “boys” lunches with David Shichor and Dale Sechrest and the tabooed French fries we ordered, though he always confessed to his wife Dolores. I’ll miss the wonderful stories Gil would tell about the who’s who of criminology. I’ll miss his surprise when I told that I had bought his novel, “Fury on Legs.”
I’ll miss writing with him and my frustration of struggling with one paragraph for the book or an article, while he finished pages. I’ll miss working on the crossword puzzles. I’ll miss the emails to “Marykins” and his contributions to the “Spring Chicken” file.
The spring chicken story began when Gill expressed his surprised at my age at our second meeting. With a puzzled look on his face he announced: “Why you’re no spring chicken.” Admittedly, I bit my tongue and since that moment whenever he saw a reference to spring chickens in a book or an article, he would send me a copy. It’s the little things we’ll miss about Gil, in addition to his friendship, mentorship, insight, and overall wonderfulness.
Mary Dodge, Ph.D.
Professor and Criminal Justice Programs Director
University of Colorado Denver
School of Public Affairs
Gil’s long and rich — remarkable — career as an academic, professor and 25-year emeritus professor, spanned modern criminology and the social sciences. One marvels at Gil’s output, its diversity, its quality and creativity. He wrote about witches and rich doctor egg thieves, about white-collar crimes and government and industry evil, about Nobel laureates and politicians who could not keep their pants on.
Gil wrote for great journals and law reviews and magazines, but he would also write for anyone who asked.
Gil was a major figure, moving his students and colleagues, and criminal justice professionals to do good things that matter to policymakers, police and judges, and university administrators. Others will chronicle his immense contributions to criminology, his ranking as one of the most cited of scholars, the impact of his works.
He did so both academically and in what he knew to be the more important parts of life. He helped us make friends with people all over the world. He nudged us to take that trip (Papua New Guinea, the Soviet Union, Abkhazia … ), to write a big-picture article based on what you know not just on what you can quantify at some level of significance, to talk to that prosecutor or defense attorney or victim in Milan or Manchester, to apply for another Fulbright: Plan it and you’ll do it. Don’t wait until some theoretically better time.
… to so many of us in so many ways; he was generous with his time, with his lovely collections (some of which were astounding — from Faulkner to frogs), with his homes, with his money.
He was generous with his editing — something that sometimes became addictive: Once he returned to me one of our draft manuscripts having edited a provision of the U.S. Constitution that didn’t flow well.
… about civil liberties, about the people on the wrong end of the stick, about his friends when we did something foolish or worse, about higher education’s costs. (How could the nation go from a GI bill that took Gil Geis from New York and the service to Colgate for a wonderful education to a time where personal debt, not love of work, is now driving career choices?)
He went to places whose names most can’t spell. He would cross a border to add to the number of countries that got him into the Century Club. He went to nations he thought he might not like. He came back a wiser person, as he knew we would if we took his advice.
He wondered why the country was going the way it was, why other countries were doing so too, why the university was becoming so corporate, why people sought simple scientific explanations of man’s amazing foibles and evils — and goods. As an observer of behavior he often reminded that we just don’t know why things happen and what might make a difference in decreasing crime in the suites and on the streets
… and Gil loved.
How he treasured his family. He knew everything about his children and their children and his extended family. He followed their comings and goings; he helped them in lots of way, and he let you know about them. He was very proud and yet he wondered now and again: now why would he or she do that.
Now that Gil is no longer here, for hundreds of people life will have a big hole in it, a place he used to fill. Just as with a spouse who is gone, many of us will often say “I’ve got to talk with Gil about that: I’ve got to share that with Gil.” Now we can’t, but I am immensely grateful that for so many years I could.
Joseph DiMento, Ph.D., J.D.
Professor and founding faculty
School of Law
University of California, Irvine
I owe my first acquaintance with Gilbert Geis to the publication in Italy of Edwin Sutherland’s “White Collar Crime. The Uncut Version” in 1987. He had written with Colin Goff the Introduction to the Yale University Press 1983 edition and to Federico Stella (the editor of the book series) and me (editor of the book) made sense to have from them both an apt introduction to the Italian version, not merely a translation of the original one.
I was astonished by the readiness of Gil, a quite renowned criminologist not only in the field of white-collar and corporate crime, to provide in very few days a text so fine and so sensitive to the “local” perspective, by his exquisite kindness towards me, a young and inexperienced assistant professor of a distant country to whom he had never been introduced. Since then he has become a stable and reliable source of knowledge, inspiration and advice for my work and a terrific help for my students so anxious to be lead in the vast repository of American criminology.
I was honoured by his many attentions to me, including the delicate handwritten dedications he put on the papers and books he kindly sent me, where he used to call me “a valued long-distance friend” and invariably mentioned the word “respect”: a term which tells worlds to legal scholars, daily wondering about justice and trying to perform it in their job. I’m still proud of his friendship and I deeply regret never having found the time and opportunity to have a journey to California and meet him personally. I will, we all will, miss him badly, just while profusely drawing ever since upon his immense knowledge, wisdom and humanity.
Gabrio Forti, Ph.D.
Professor in the Faculty of Law
Università Cattolica del S.C., Milano, Italy
When I started at the ACFE in 1995, Gil Geis was the president and a member of the Board of Regents. I did not know of his reputation until I started studying more about fraud prevention and criminology. Virtually every academic article I saw on behaviors of white-collar criminals was either written by Dr. Geis or quoted him extensively.
| Dr. Geis speaks during a Board of Regents meeting while
John Gill, J.D., CFE, listens intently.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I met him in person. In my mind, I had the image of a gray beard, a tweed jacket, and a pipe. Boy was I surprised. He did have the gray beard, but that was as far as the stereotype went. He was very informal, almost to the point of being irreverent. He had a wicked sense of humor and loved to crack jokes during meetings.
During one of the breaks, I introduced myself. When he found out I was a lawyer, he immediately began telling me about a new book he was working on about “crimes of the century.” I have always been a “true crime” buff, and we had a great discussion about the infamous kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh’s infant son — one of the cases to be featured in his book. I was amazed at his recall of facts and how quick witted he was.
I thoroughly enjoyed all of our conversations during the few days he was here, and I found myself looking forward to seeing him again at the next meeting. Gil traveled extensively teaching and researching. When I saw him again, I enjoyed his stories of his travels and the interesting people he met. And he never ceased to impress me. During an extended stay in New York City, he rented an apartment down the hall from the actor Jerry Orbach of “Law and Order” fame. They struck up a friendship on the elevator (not unusual for Gil) and they shared dinner together several times.
And while to the general public, Jerry Orbach is more famous, I found that in criminology circles, Gil had him beat. A few years after I met Gil, I was serving on a committee at the National White Collar Crime Center. Several distinguished professors of criminology also served on the committee, and we had meeting at the center’s headquarters in West Virginia.
During lunch, one of the professors mentioned something about a new book by “Dr. Geis” on the Salem witch trials. Up until this point, I had remained pretty silent because most of their discussion had beyond my field of knowledge, but I perked up when I heard Gil’s name. Finally, I had something in common I could speak about. I said, “Oh yes. The book just came out. Gil sent me a copy but I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet.”
Suddenly everyone stopped and stared at me. I was very unnerved. I was thinking I should have just stayed quiet. Finally, one of the professors looked at me and said, “You know Dr. Geis.” I said, “Well, yes. He is the president of the ACFE. I just adore him, and he’s a lot of fun to talk to at the Regent’s meetings.”
Those professors just looked at me with such shock and awe and then began to pepper me with questions about what he was like, did he have a good sense of humor, what was he working on now — they just wouldn’t stop. The rest of the meeting, they treated me like royalty. I had no idea what an icon Gil was until that meeting.
To me, Gil was a good friend that I enjoyed seeing a few times a year at ACFE events. He was fun to be with, and everyone that knew him loved him. I was so disappointed that he was not able to attend last year’s event. It was not the same, and unfortunately, it will never be the same. But on the plus side, he left a remarkable body of work in the field of criminology and white-collar crime, and many happy memories for those who knew him.
John Gill, J.D., CFE
ACFE’s Vice President - Education
We all meet a lot of people in the interesting world in which we live, but there are few who make the deep impression that Dr. Gil Geis has left on me. I served on the ACFE Board for a short time during Dr. Geis' term as ACFE president. Gil was the kind of person you wanted to lock yourself in a room with and just listen to him talk. He was an elegant man. Intensely committed to disciplines affecting the human condition. He was a rare breed of individualist who valued education above all else and even if you didn't know him personally, you are benefiting from his years of contribution to our organization. He truly was the smartest guy in any room, but it was his smile that I will remember most. I deeply regret that I didn't know him better.
Regent Emeritus Thomas Golden, CFE
Gil did pioneering research on victimology and sex offending, in addition to his landmark work on white-collar crime. Whatever the subject, I will always remember Gil for the joy and enthusiasm he brought to his work. His intellectual curiosity was boundless. Well into his eighties, his ebullience exceeded that of a fresh-faced, yet-to-become-jaded graduate student. His writing was lucid and forceful. He always had time for a chat, and his advice was always sound. One could hardly choose a better role model than Gil Geis. His inspiration will live on in each of us who have been fortunate enough to know him.
Peter Grabosky, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor, Research School of Social Sciences
Australian National University
Deputy Director, Australian Research Council Center of Excellence in Policing and Security
Dr. Geis was one of the most delightful and brilliant persons I have ever known. He was so personable, kind and generous, always had a smile on his face, and had the most interesting stories to share. He loved his family, and he was never too busy to chat. One of the highlights at ACFE events was spending some time with him. I will really miss him.
Regent Emeritus Grace Ghezzi, CFE, CFP, CPA, PFS
Benefit Consulting Group Inc.
Writing a brief ode to Gil Geis was a difficult task for me. So many of us owe our careers to him and I am no different. But, it wasn't only on academic matters that Gil's schooling proved important to many of us. His lessons about life were likely of more value.
I first met Gil more than 40 years ago. He was teaching his first class at UC Irvine and I was (to use one of his favorite terms) a "snot-nosed" undergraduate (and a relatively newly minted quadriplegic). One of Gil's teaching strategies was to begin a lecture with some fictional discussion he had with a member of the class. The named students would often object; they had not said the innocuous words that had been ascribed to them. When Gil used me in his story, I said nothing. I was happy merely to be mentioned; he likely appreciated my silence. After the midterm, when a few students complained to Gil about his exam, I offered to take on the task for him. Gil barely knew me. I was only a junior and in a wheelchair, but he accepted the offer without hesitation.
I tell this story because it illustrates a quintessential characteristic of Gil; he was a very generous man, who was always willing to give others the opportunity to succeed. His students carry that lesson and many more with them during their daily activities. We honor him best by, as he put it, "passing it along."
Paul Jesilow, Ph.D.
Professor of Criminology, Law & Society
University of California, Irvine
Gil had at least three important qualities, which helped to make him the force he was in white-collar crime research and in criminology generally. First, he was curious about how and why people and their actions fitted together both to commit crime and to control (or not control) crime, and wanted to account for these in a no-bull**** way.
Second, he was more interested in what he was researching than he was in himself, and he was a good collaborator — he was very congenial without losing the toughness of mind that is the hallmark of the top class clear thinker. To write clearly, it is helpful to be able to think clearly, and he was also clear in his critiques of others’ work, without being egotistical.
Third he could write well, in language that people who were not professional criminologists could understand; wanting to write well, though it is a good start, is not enough! Although we had first met in the late 1970s and he and Robley Geis stayed with me in Cardiff then, I only sent him one piece for comment, and that was in 2008 when I was trying to explain why there had been so little “suite revenge” in criminal action against those responsible for the financial crisis. He gently urged me to stop sending him updated drafts, but offered many insightful comments, among which was the following, with which I started my article in the British Journal of Criminology:
“I don’t believe that moral panics followed the 1929 stock market crash here or the Enron et al scandals. The key question might be why don’t we have erupting moral panics when the behavior is so much more damaging and unnerving and harmful as white-crime crime can be, ripping at the social fabric while street crime as Durkheim indicated, tends to unite the goodly against the wicked.”
His work on the Great Electrical Price Fixing Conspiracy was written at a time when (even more than now) very few criminologists were interested in white-collar crimes, and though he wrote about many other issues — e.g. what used to be called “crimes without victims” like drugs, gambling and prostitution — he had his greatest impact in mentoring both academics and professionals interested in that subject. That is one reason why people were so saddened by his death.
Others will write about his role in creating and sustaining ACFE, and helping to give fraud studies greater analytical rigor. I am proud to have taken over as president of the National White-Collar Crime Research Consortium, which he helped to found, but sad that my first duty was to provide some reflections on his life shortly after his passing. He said that he wanted marked on his gravestone “Revise and Resubmit,” and he would be happy if this attitude of enduring searching to get a better answer and to get it out there was a lasting legacy of a life well lived.
Michael Levi, Ph.D., DSc(Econ), AcSS, FLSW
Professor of Criminology
Gil was an extremely intelligent and accomplished gentleman. Someone with his background could easily intimidate you. But Gil was the warmest person I’ve ever met. He was genuinely interested in you, and never wanted to talk about himself. I will miss his big smile and friendly manner.
Jeanette LeVie, CFE
ACFE’s Vice President – Administration
Ultimately, like so many of his other students, I wanted Gil to feel proud of me. He was my most important teacher. Did I ever have a class from him? No. My learning was more experiential. He was my intellectual father. I felt I just didn’t want to disappoint him.
Did I think about this every day? No. I was living a life. I had a family and a job and … well, you know, soccer, PTA, charities, bills, etc. But, upon reflection, and at some level, his importance to me was always present.
Gil became my intellectual focal point. Some of my interactions with Gil were informal and unrelated to academic matters. In those moments he didn’t talk like he was teaching, but his talk was always instructional to me. He taught me about being an academic and living a life of the mind. And, he taught me the substance of criminology and the method of thinking and writing about that substance. Upon reflection, he was always teaching me things. It was his nature and he did it without conscious plan, but he did it all the time.
Robert F. Meier, Ph.D.
Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice
University of Nebraska at Omaha
Like so many others, I was a mentee of Gil’s and owe my career to him. He helped bring me to UCI over 30 years ago, we were very close colleagues ever since, and collaborated on many pieces together. Gil was a giant in the field of criminology, and was well known for his enthusiasm and positive outlook, warm sense of humor, sharp wit, kind spirit, top quality scholarship and superb writing. He was an extraordinarily prolific social scientist as well a conscientious editor. Those who worked with him were well aware of his penchant for red ink and numerous drafts; the results were always well worth the effort.
|Dr. Geis presents the ACFE's first Report to the Nations on
Occupational Fraud and Abuse, The Wells Report.
Although best known for his work on white-collar crime, the amount and breadth of Gil’s research throughout his academic career are nothing short of astonishing. From the OJ trial to witch trials, from Scandinavian studies to Good Samaritans, Gil never stopped searching for the next interesting scholarly challenge, and he was always more than up to the task regardless of the particular topic. His enormous skills as a writer and researcher distinguished him from other major academics.
Gil’s seminal work on the heavy electrical equipment price-fixing cases of 1961, his most famous piece, helped transform the field of criminology by creating a foundation for future research in the area of white-collar crime. The profound impact of this work was evidenced in a remark made some 30 years ago by former Yale sociologist Stanton Wheeler, who told his law school students on the first day of their white-collar crime seminar, “The only reason we are here today is because of Gil Geis.”
Gil also had a profound impact upon those who were privileged and lucky enough to know and to work with him. He was an inspiring educator who attracted many graduate students who did their doctoral work with him. He was fortunate to have met Joseph Wells, and helped him build the ACFE into a leading worldwide organization. Unlike some academics, Gil was absolutely comfortable moving between theory and practice, and his major contributions to the study and prevention of fraud will continue to help change the world for the better. We are all much richer persons for having him with us for so long. His legacy will guide scholars and practitioners for years to come.
Henry N. Pontell, Ph.D.
Professor of Criminology
Law & Society and Sociology the School of Social Ecology
University of California – Irvine.
Recipient of the ACFE’s 2001 Donald R. Cressey Memorial Award
Gil Geis was one of the most prolific social scientists in our time. While his reputation is most closely related to the study of white-collar crime there are hardly any other subjects in criminology that he was not a contributor to through his research and extensive publications that included some 26 books and several hundred articles and book chapters.
He was also an excellent teacher and was named outstanding professor of the California State University system in 1971 and received many other prestigious professional awards. Gil was also active in professional associations and among others served as the president of the American Society of Criminology and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
He was a real intellectual — interested, inquisitive and well informed about what is going on in the world much beyond criminology as well as an avid reader. Every time I visited him there were several books and daily papers (at least The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Orange County Register) on the stand next to his bed. Thus, it was not very surprising that when I came to meet him for one of our periodic lunch dates in the local coffee shop a few years before he became bedridden, I found him somewhat annoyed. He explained that he was waiting for crime and police data that was promised to him from the Mali police headquarters and they had not arrived. I asked him why he was so interested in the crime and police statistics of a country that many people are not even familiar with and the likelihood that its data are not very accurate anyway. His answer was that he wanted to learn and write about a something that few researchers in America study. Eventually he did receive some of the information and he wrote an entry on the Mali police in the World Police Encyclopedia published in 2006.
Gil was also helpful to many of his students and colleagues advising them through their careers, reading and commenting on their research and manuscript drafts which, at least in my case, were usually returned with encouragement, corrections and a lot of comments written in red ink all over the pages.
His knowledge and ideas in general and in criminology in particular were always very illuminating and did help me to crystallize my thinking. I will miss him much as most of the others who knew and interacted with him.
David Shichor, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Criminal Justice
California State University San Bernardino
I’ve been sitting at my computer for hours, trying to compose a few sentences that do justice to this giant of a man, Gil Geis. But there’s no way to capture all that Gil was, and remains in our memory, in a paragraph or two. His life merits a full biography. Many will write about Gil’s immense impact as a scholar, a mentor, and a friend.
I want simply to reprint a passage from Hannah Greene’s novel of madness and recovery, “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” that Gil used to conclude the last course I took from him at UC Irvine in 1973. The passage describes why two mental hospital attendants, Hobbs and McPherson, evoked such different responses from their charges. I still can see Gil in my mind’s eye, standing on the stage in front of a packed lecture hall, reading these lines, with Pandy, his white Scotty, sitting at his feet:
Hobbs was a little brutal at times, but it was more than that. He was frightened of the craziness he saw around him because it was an extension of something inside himself. He wanted people to be crazier and more bizarre than they really were so that he could see the line, which separated him, his inclinations and random thoughts, and his half wishes, from the full-bloomed, exploded madness of the patients. McPherson, on the other hand, was a strong man, even a happy one. He wanted the patients to be like him, and the closer they got to being like him the better he felt. He kept calling to the similarity between them, never demanding, but subtly, secretly calling, and when a scrap of it came forth, he welcomed it. The patients had merely continued to give each man what he really wanted. There was no injustice done.
That passage stands as a fitting tribute to Gil who, for all his extraordinary accomplishments, never lost sight of the fact that we share a common humanity that should be cherished and nurtured. He was the real-life equivalent of McPherson. He sought and brought out the best in everyone he met. That’s how he lived his life. I knew Gil for over 40 years. It wasn’t long enough.
Richard Wright, Ph.D.
Curators’ Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice
University of Missouri - St. Louis
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