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Soldier, MP, academic: remembering Terry Gygar

Terry Gygar (left), receives the inaugural Gold Medal in Law from John Kearney QC in 1992.

Associate Professor Terry Gygar, a former soldier and Queensland MP who went on to become a law academic at Bond University, has died following a battle with cancer. He was 77.

Assoc Prof Gygar was born in Tamworth in 1947 and attended St Joseph’s College, Gregory Terrace in Brisbane before joining the Australian Army.

He was deployed in the Vietnam War in 1970 and 1971 with an aviation reconnaissance unit and resigned from the regular army in 1973 with the rank of captain, remaining in the army reserve until 1987.

In 1974 he was elected to the Queensland Parliament as the Liberal Member for Stafford and served until 1983, retaking the seat at a by-election in 1984.

During this time in he was awarded a Chevening Scholarship for study at the London School of Economics, piquing an interest in academia.

When Labor swept away the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era in 1989, Assoc Prof Gygar followed his long-held passion for the law, enrolling as a mature-age student at Bond University.

He began his studies in 1990, one year after the founding of the university, and graduated with a Bachelor of Laws in 1992, followed by a Master of Laws in 2014.

He was a Vice Chancellor’s Scholar and received the inaugural Bond University Gold Medal in Law, going on to join the Faculty of Law.

Assoc Prof Gygar was admitted as a barrister of the Supreme Court of Queensland, the High Court of Australia and the Federal Court of Australia, working and travelling extensively in Asia and teaching at the International Islamic University in Malaysia and City University of Hong Kong.

He held a visiting professorship and taught master’s programs at East China University of Politics and Law in Shanghai. 

In his later years Assoc Prof Gygar maintained his interest in Asia, conducting China study tours and working to support Bond’s Chinese students to make the difficult transition to the study of Australian law. 

Associate Professor Gygar (front row, centre with moustache) with Bond University students in Tiananmen Square, Beijing in 2006.

One colleague said: ‘When we sailed across the ocean to Australia, our hearts were filled with anxiety from the changes in our surroundings and the helplessness of learning unfamiliar legal systems.

“In those moments, Terry was like a mother bird guarding the nest, patiently guiding and teaching us, enabling generations of Chinese law students to flourish and soar. 

“Perhaps they may fly away without looking back, but for every Chinese law student, the name Terry Gygar will forever be a beacon on the path of life.”

Assoc Prof Gygar’s contributions at Bond were not confined to law.

In the mid-1990s when the university was battling survive, he stepped up to serve as chief of staff to his colleague and good mate, Professor John Farrar who had been thrust into the role of Acting Vice Chancellor to steer Bond through a turbulent time.

He was an active advocate of the campaign to keep Bond University as a private institution and celebrated the day in 1999 when it finally won its full independence.

In recognition of his service to the Australian Defence Force, Ass Prof Gygar’s was the recipient of numerous accolades including the Australian Active Service Medal, the General Service Medal for Vietnam, the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal, the Australian Centenary Medal, the Reserve Force Decoration, the National Medal and Australian Defence Medal.

Executive Dean of the Faculty of Law Professor Nick James said Assoc Prof Gygar was a “genuine icon within the Faculty and amongst the students”.

“He made so many contributions to the faculty and the university as a teacher, a scholar, a colleague and a mentor, and right up to the end he was concerned about his students and his teaching responsibilities,” Professor James said.

“It was only just over a week ago that he called to check in with us to make sure his classes were being looked after.

“In his usual indomitable manner he said he still had ‘a couple of years left’ but might need to step back from teaching for a bit.”

The university’s flags flew at half-mast on Monday, March 18 as a mark of respect.

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