Victorian College of the Arts Founding Council, 1972, Dr Philip Law is pictured sitting at the far right of the front row.

A champion of the arts: Dr Phillip Law

He was known as ‘Mr Antarctica’, and led Australia’s Antarctic exploration for nearly 20 years, having completed a Bachelor of Science in 1937 and a Master of Science in 1941 at the University and lectured in physics from 1943 to 1948.

He was also awarded an honourary Doctorate of Applied Science by the University in 1962. Yet it was the next chapter of his life that Dr Phillip Law, AC CBE is most fondly remembered for at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA).

Former Dean and Director of the VCA, Andrea Hull says Dr Law was integral to the establishment of the VCA, and generously contributed to its ongoing success.

‘Phillip got the vision for the VCA and he was prepared to back it,’ says Andrea.

‘He had an extraordinary impact on the VCA. He was a great champion for us.’

After resigning from the Antarctic Division in 1966, the renowned explorer and founder of Australia’s first Antarctic mission at Mawson took up a position as Vice-President of the newly created Victorian Institute of the Colleges. It was during this time that Dr Law oversaw the creation of the Victorian College of the Arts. He was instrumental in the initial government negotiations and, together with Lenton Parr, mapped out a constitution and structure for the college.

Throughout his life, Dr Law stayed very engaged with the VCA and generously established two endowed scholarships. The Dr Phillip Law Music Scholarship is awarded each year to a student who exhibits the greatest excellence in innovative performance and commitment to their studies and activities offered by the Faculty. The Dr Phillip Law Travel Scholarship is awarded to enable a Dance student to travel overseas, to gain vital international experience and to meet and work with the best people in the field.

‘Phillip loved dance,’ remembers Andrea. ‘He engaged very closely with the Dance School and he went to an enormous number of events.’ The scholarships have both been established as endowed trusts where the University is the trustee, the capital has been invested and the income is used to support the scholarships.

When he passed away in 2010, aged 97, Dr Law left a significant portion of his estate to the Victorian College of the Arts. The funds were directed to the VCA Foundation and the existing scholarships’ trusts.

However the generosity of Dr Law is not only providing vital support for the VCA, it is also making an impact right across the University of Melbourne. Funds from his bequest were also directed towards the University’s Faculty of Science, the Library and the e-Scholarship Research Centre.

This year, as the VCA celebrates 40 years of nurturing Australia’s great creative talent, it recognises the enormous contributions of its supporters such as Dr Law, and the importance of philanthropy to the college.

Andrea Hull could list many such programs, opportunities and achievements of the college that came about as a result of philanthropy.

‘The generosity of our donors has been absolutely essential to the VCA,’ she says.

‘So many of the VCA’s major achievements wouldn’t be possible without the support of our great philanthropists.’

A version of this article originally appeared on Channel, the Faculty’s previous publishing platform.