A Kiwi law professor whose influence spread from future giants of New Zealand's political and legal fraternity to the House of Lords, has left an enormous financial legacy to the university he taught at for more than three decades.
Emeritus Professor Brian Coote, who taught at the University of Auckland's law school for 33 years - including a stint as dean of law - and who counted a former Prime Minister and two deputy Prime Ministers among his students, died last year aged 89.
But Coote, an expert in contract law, whose legal scholarship influenced a number of decisions of the House of Lords and other senior courts in the Commonwealth, ensured his support would continue by bequeathing $5 million to the university's law school.
The bequest is the largest ever made to the university by a staff member, and the largest gift ever made to the law school, University of Auckland Foundation general manager Richard Sorrenson said.
"We are absolutely delighted to have received this incredibly generous gift. It is a fitting tribute to Brian and his love and respect for the academic study of law."
The plans of Coote, who was unmarried and had no children, to leave a bequest were treated confidentially during his lifetime, Sorrenson said.
The income from the bequest would be used to help graduates of the university's faculty of law do PhD studies overseas, and also support graduates from overseas to study for PhDs at Auckland. It would also be used to improve research collections and facilities in the law school, fund postdoctoral fellowships and help academic staff do advanced research overseas.
After retiring in 1994, Coote received a CBE in 1995, was made a Fellow of the Academy of the Humanities in 2007, a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand (Te Apārangi) in 2009, and earned a LLD (Doctor of Laws) degree from Auckland in 2017.
His students included late former Prime Minister David Lange, deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, former deputy Prime Minister Jim McLay, Chief Justice
Dame Helen Winkelmann, former Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias, former Attorney-General Paul East, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton, and many judges and Queen's Counsels at all levels of the judiciary.
Dame Helen described her former professor's gift as "generous and important" from a man who was as committed to the teaching of the law, as he was to the law school at which he taught.
"This gift links those two together, helping the study of the law and Auckland Law School. But through promoting research it will strengthen the law for all New Zealanders."
Coote was a traditional and formal teacher, but still "wove some magic into the fabric of the law", she said.
"He taught contract law as a set of principles by which people could organise their affairs, explaining the case law in a way that linked the principles to the lives and problems of ordinary people and businesses.
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"I still remember the names of those cases and the facts they decided - not something I could say about all of the cases I learned about during my law degree."
In an obituary for the New Zealand Law Society at the time of Coote's death, Queen's Counsel Peter Watts wrote that after graduating from the Auckland College of the University of New Zealand - the precursor to the University of Auckland - Coote went to Queens' College, Cambridge, on a New Zealand Travelling Scholarship in 1956.
He later won the Yorke Prize for the best Law PhD in his graduating year.
The reasons for his bequest could, in part, be traced to the support he received to study in the United Kingdom, Paul East said.
"I think the scholarship had a major influence on his life, and that was one of the reasons for his generosity. I also think that as he had no immediate family it made sense to him to leave his estate to the law school, which he loved very much."
Coote, whom East met in the 1960s when the former was a warden at the Norman Spencer Hostel, was a committed Christian "who always saw the good in people".
"He was a wonderful man who gave a great deal to the subjects he taught, particularly contract law."
Coote's gift would ensure others experienced the same opportunities he had, University of Auckland dean of law Pene Mathew said.
"This extraordinarily generous bequest will result in scholarships for PhD students who might otherwise struggle to support the years of intense study that a doctorate requires."
The opportunities for visiting scholars was also important, as it allowed New Zealand to remain at the front of legal developments, Mathew said.
"Professor Coote's bequest also envisages seed funding for a chair in an area of private law – a very exciting prospect."