Ivan A. Vlasic Remembered

April 25, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Posted in Space Law Current Events | Leave a comment

by Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz with the blog faculty

Source: personal communication with Prof. Ram Jakhu

Prof. Paul Dempsey: Professor Ivan Vlasic emerged from Croatia, where he fought in the resistance against Nazi occupation.  He escaped to North America after WWII, when the Communists took control of Yugoslavia.  Dr. Vlasic received his LL.M. from McGill, then received his Doctorate from the Yale Law School, as a protégé of Professor Myers McDougal, a pillar in the field of International Law.  Professor Vlasic’s scholarship, which includes three books, is among the most highly respected in the field of Space Law.  He taught law at several Universities, including McGill.  Students will remember him as a powerful force in the classroom. Professor Vlasic was appointed Director of McGill University’s Institute of Air & Space Law in 1971.  Along with Professors Matte and Milde, he was among three accomplished Directors of the Institute who were refugees from communist control of Eastern Europe.  Dr. Vlasic was a formidable and dynamic colleague, one who is missed by all who had the pleasure to spar with his sharp intellect.

Prof. Daniel Jutras, Dean of the McGill Faculty of Law: Professor Vlasic  was a formidable man, whose early life was thrown into chaos by the second world war.  He came to North America as a young man, after having seen the horrors of conflict in Eastern Europe.  At McGill, Professor Vlasic was a towering figure in the Institute of Air and Space Law, and a mentor to many of its graduate students.

Prof. Ram Jakhu:  Prof. Ivan Vlasic was an unmatched pioneer in the field of space law. He started a graduate level course on Space Law, the first in world, at McGill University.  He co-authored (with Myres S. McDougal Harold D. Lasswell) the world’s first most comprehensive treatise entitled “Law and Public Order in Space” as early as 1963.   This far-reaching study provided conceptual framework and philosophical basis for the law of outer space as we know today. He has been my close mentor for over 30 years and I will very much miss him.

Dr. George S. Robinson:  When Myers McDougal, Harold Lasswell, and Ivan Vlasic published their seminal “Law and Public Order in Space” in 1963, it was the first book I read after graduating from the University of Virginia School of Law. My wife and colleague Ann had recently graduated from the George Washington University with a degree in sociology, and it was she who recognized the relatively unique socio-philosophical foundations of the treatise, and its importance to my own work. I carefully reread the book, all 1200 plus pages…three separate times! I knew about McDougal and Lasswell, but the third co-author, Vlasic, I knew nothing about at all. I researched his early background, which resulted in large part in my leaving the Federal Aviation Agency in Washington, D.C., and pursuing the Institute of Air and Space Law’s LL.M. program. Ivan’s impression upon me and influence on my subsequent work in space law (1) was reflected in his assertive and strong opinions that always respected my own, albeit they frequently were at odds; (2) showed  a willingness to challenge opposing views with great vigor and strength, and then listen to the responses very carefully with an open mind; (3) resulted in his insisting that he serve as my faculty advisor, both for my rather controversial  LL.M. dissertation and also for the first Doctor of Civil Laws degree awarded by the Institute; (4) reflected his wry and frequently blunt humor that challenged my own bluntness and style; and (5) led to his extraordinary insight freely given in later years to help me with several difficult cases I was handling in the former Yugoslavia. All existence is transitory, of course, so I shall neither miss nor grieve at the passing of Ivan. I shall, however, never hesitate to celebrate his life as embodying one of the most challenging, instructive, and admired individuals to influence my own life, personally as well as professionally.

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