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Ian Townsend-Gault

$10,575.00 (raised so far)

About Ian Townsend-Gault

Professor Ian Townsend-Gault was a long-standing faculty member at the Peter A. Allard School of Law, who passed away on August 6, 2016. He is remembered for the many contributions he made to the Allard School of Law, to UBC and to the lives and work of his colleagues and students.

Before his appointment at UBC, Ian served for several years as Associate Professor at Dalhousie University. He worked in both the Schulich School of Law and the Institute for Resources and Environmental Studies, helping to found the Marine Affairs Program as well as the Oceans Institute of Canada. Continuing his work on international boundary and environmental issues in Southeast Asia, on his arrival at the Allard School of Law in 1989, he became Founding Director of the Centre for Asian Legal Studies, where he inspired his colleagues with a commitment to building better understanding about legal developments in Asia. His pioneering work on the South China Sea maritime boundary disputes in the early 1990s laid the foundation for much of the international law discourse that followed.

Ian’s eloquence and wit were legendary; he used both to bring people together, a significant supplement to his life’s work. His capacity for friendship and his extraordinary historian’s memory—nourished by voracious reading—all fed into his inspired teaching and the international endeavours that mattered most to him. Throughout his life he found inspiration and solace in the universal medium of music. He is greatly missed by family, friends, colleagues and his many former students in Canada and around the world.

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The impact of your support

In Ian’s memory, family and friends have created the Ian Townsend-Gault Memorial Graduate Research Award at the Peter A. Allard School of Law.

Your gift will pay tribute to Ian’s life and career by supporting outstanding students in research-based graduate programs, especially those conducting research in Asian law or international law.

Messages of Remembrance

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  • Ian was a close and dear friend. He, Charlotte, Emma and Sophie came to Bowen Island not long after we did in around 1987. Having been at Cambridge reading law shortly after Ian had been there and sharing interests across law, literature, art, music, family and travel we soon bonded. Many were the nights of riot as friendship and revelling, sometime into the wee hours, drew us across an expanse of stories and life. With other neighbours, the academic flotsam and jetsam that ended up on Bowen Island’s shores (the late Dr. Russell Wills was a third friend on many evenings- - he, too, gone and missed). Gongs from Asia, Ian on the back deck of the ferry dictating memoranda. His drives through town inna morning or on the chilled deck of the ferry on winter crossings at night. Literature, paintings, we met in London at the Townsend picture sale, and in Toronto one time i recall. Out move to France in 2002 then sale of our home on Bowen in 2005 separated us. We saw each other from time to time but life across worlds stretched us out and divorces took their toll. When I heard he had died it was as if part of our past died too. So much laughter, he dressed as an asiatic in long pony tail at my 40th birthday, he and Charlotte at countless concerts ag our home. His love and advocacy of Bruckner and Furtwangler and conductor after conductor- - his was no surface knowledge. If one has a few friends in life whose presence brings joy, encouragement and wisdom then one is blessed indeed: for me “ITG” was such a one. Rest in Peace my dear friend. I shall miss you always.

    Iain T. Benson, Friend and Neighbour
  • AN ODE TO IAN The news that Ian has gone on ahead to Valhalla shocked and deeply saddened me. I loved the roly-poly, funny, witty, warm , generous Ian Townsend -Gault. My synapses are flashing with memories of our exploits and adventures--and our accomplishments, hopes and dreams. Ian was one of the smartest people I have ever met--and I have met quite a few very smart and creative people. He was incredibly eloquent--he had what in Boston they call the ‘Irish trait’-- the gift of gab and a silver tongue. When he was on a ‘roll’, his eyes would stare blankly at the ceiling as he spewed an amazingly coherent, sensible--and to foundations--convincing spiel. Ian --like me was unorthodox and irreverent. We had risen --by ability and pluck --but we retained our sass and empathy for the underdog. Ian was my friend--my deepest confidant, most constructive critic--and--in some aspects -my idol and mentor. To me he was much more than a colleague--he was a fellow worker in the vineyard that cultivates sensibility and objectivity in resolving disputes --in this case-- of the maritime kind--that were --and are --dominated by the nationalism of policy makers and supporting analysts from the countries directly involved. Our brainstorming sessions were very productive-- discarding bad ideas and creating and building upon good ones --which in some cases became reality--like the training program for Vietnam’s next generation of maritime policy analysts. We made a great team--he the eclectic orator and ‘rain man’, me the writer and detail man. We first met in the hotel bar at a Law of the Sea Institute Conference in Miami. We discovered that contrary to what some people had advised us, we had a great deal in common-- including our personalities, philosophy of life and why we were doing what we were doing. We strengthened our bond in sessions at locations ranging from a cellar dive at Dalhousie to the elegance of the UBC Faculty Club--the latter followed by a mad dash by car and on foot to just make the last ferry to Bowen Island. Our relationship blossomed and bore fruit in our Vietnam work assisting Le Minh Nghia (Chairman of Vietnam’s boundary committee under the Foreign Ministry)--under the patronage of General Vo Nguyen Giap (whom we met privately)--in training the then next generation of maritime policy analysts (Many have gone on to bigger and better things but some still have influence on marine policy in Vietnam). I remember well our late night local bar hopping in Hanoi imbibing questionable concoctions; the sumptuous multicourse incredibly cheap feasts at the Piano Bars (both 1 and 2); our brisk walks around Hanoi’s central lake; and our post workshop celebrations at the Defense Ministry guest house-- a colonial French mansion dripping with history --and the next morning’s mad dash to the airport. Ian would just throw all his stuff--dirty clothes, clean clothes, papers, electronics, toiletries etc willy-nilly into his suitcase and then kneel on it to force it shut, usually with part of a shirt or a tie still hanging out! We carried on our brainstorming and intellectual pyramiding around Asia exploring the cultures we found ourselves immersed in--from an epic all-nighter at a kedai in K.L. to a truly ethereal afternoon at a small inn bar in Ubud overlooking the padi fields. We watched the fruit bats swarm out of Japanese built WWII tunnels at sunset in Bukit Tinggi and sampled night spots in Bangkok, Phuket and Kuta Beach. We searched in vain for cheap beer in Oslo. Ian introduced me to my first English stout--thick, brown and warm--like mud -- in Durham at a patio bar on a warm English afternoon. After a few sips I no longer noticed the bitter taste nor the temperature but only the warm fuzzy feeling of good drink and great companionship. Ian and I lost frequent contact in recent years. But I always held him close in my heart and mind’s eye. Now that he is gone I miss him even more. Farewell my friend--for now. You have simply gone on ahead. We will meet again in the great beyond where we can brainstorm, create, solve the world’s problems, and laugh late into the eternal night.

    Mark J. Valencia, Good Friend and Fellow Worker in the Vineyard of Peace

    Ian and Mark, Friends
  • Professor Ian Townsend-Gault, or "ITG", made a great impression upon me. His 1L class on Constitutional Law was a real pleasure. Content to not worry about what the syllabus stated (since ITG was clearly not restricting himself to it), I enjoyed sitting back and being awed by the presence of true lecturer greatness: wit, knowledge, understanding, and compassion. In an seemingly effortless and ad hoc manner, ITG would romp (both figuratively and actually...with slippers on & eyes glued to the ceiling), through the intellectual realms of pith and substance etc., and would bring context to interpretation by way of anecdotes such as that of Chief Justice Dickson's military career impacting his writings on freedom of speech issues. Bringing the law to life, in other words! However, no matter the Canadian topic, somehow, somewhere, there would always be a link to South East Asia, and for a few minutes of every class, ITG would Segway into law of the sea issues, and far-away maritime border disputes would suddenly leap to the forefront. As a law of the sea aficionado, this was absolutely fine by me - many of these stories ("the Bangkok six" is a story etched in memory), would continue with ITG and other students (Mike, Heather and others) after class over glasses of wine at the grad students lounge - this remains one of my fondest memories of law school. When I ended up having to confront an actual law of the sea legal matter a few years ago, I attempted to contact ITG, and was shocked and saddened to learn of his passing. I appreciated his values, his insights, and zest for life, and wish him well on his journey to the spirit in the sky.

    Carl Monk, Former Student
  • While leafing through old folders I come across the draft of a letter to Ian, dated October 1974: “Dear Ian, Our holidays, the happy time to forget about universities and law “an‘ a’ that” is over; your term has begun again in Dundee, my semester as well, in Tübingen […]” The ‘holidays’ referred to were a quite adventurous journey together with another friend who contributed his grandfather’s Hillman Avenger, from Dundee via Belgium, Germany and the Swiss Alpine passes to Italy, to meet Ian's brother Dermot who stayed in Perugia at the time. None of us spoke Italian or had ever been there before, but everything went well and it was a great experience seeing Pisa, San Gimignano, Venice and various other places for the first time. The tour was the highlight after two years as fellow law students and friends at the University of Dundee before I returned to my previous university in Germany. We shared common interests: Music, discussing politics, the performances of the Dundee Repertory Theatre … Ian played the horn, but more often 'music' meant - in a time before YouTube and Spotify - listening to records in the stereo room of our hall of residence, with Danish salami sandwiches and Coca Cola as a special treat. Otto Klemperer was one of Ian's heroes, so I got to hear a lot of Beethoven and Brahms, although ‘The Corries’, or Kubrick film scores were also favourites. Student politics was another time-consuming business; we were both members of the ‘hall committee’, Ian as the always reliable, solid and sensible 'secretary'. In the following years we met a few times, in Cambridge, in Tübingen, but eventually Vancouver and Berlin turned out to be too far away from each other for continuing close contact, all the more so as we had specialized in different areas of the law (attending different conferences etc.). But we remained in occasional contact, and I had always hoped that, once retired, we would manage to see each other again more often. Now it cannot be. Writing this I realize again how much I have missed – am missing – Ian as a person to share or test or defend or oppose ideas on so many topics; how I miss a good friend.

    Helmut Weber, Fellow Student and Friend
List of Donors
All Donors
  • Prof. Iain T. Benson

  • Barbara Lounder and Robert Bean

  • Robert Adamson

  • Anonymous Donation

  • Charlotte and Emma Townsend-Gault

  • Michael Sobkin

  • Anonymous Donation

  • John O'Brian

  • Anonymous Donation

  • Sherry P Broder

  • Margot Young

  • Anonymous Donation

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