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Vale: Jim Hagan


His PhD students finally reduced it to three letters – the BJQ. He often smiled when he heard it because he knew he had made an impression and penetrated the chaos and confusion that is the lot of the doctoral student. The letters stood for the Big Jim Question. In other words, what is your central defining question? He argued that without it you were wasting time and you lacked a point around which you could and should organize your research. Yesterday, Wednesday 21 October 2009, we heard of the sudden passing of Emeritus Professor Jim Hagan. It was a moment few of his former colleagues or students thought would ever come – he was always here. He came in the early 1960s as a lecturer to the new History Department at the Wollongong University College with his newly completed PhD thesis on the printers union. It later became a book, Printers and Politics. He then set about doing what a good historian should do – ask questions and get answers. Occasionally his questions meant that then Vice Chancellor of the University of New South Wales, Professor Baxter would be irritated. More importantly though it meant that his students would be irritated, enlightened, enthused and attracted to historical scholarship.