Clarence Gilyard, known for his roles in films including Die Hard and Top Gun, died at the age of 66. The news of his death was revealed Monday by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) College of Fine Arts where he was a theater professor.

Gilyard had been suffering from a long illness, the UNLV news release stated without mentioning his exact cause of death.

“Professor Gilyard was a beacon of light and strength for everyone around him,” UNLV film chair Heather Addison said in the statement. “Whenever we asked him how he was, he would cheerfully declare that he was ‘Blessed!’ But we are truly the ones who were blessed to be his colleagues and students for so many years. We love you and will miss you dearly, Professor G!”

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Among his notable works are his role as Hans Gruber’s terrorist hacker Theo alongside Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman in Die Hard in 1988, as well as naval flight officer Marcus “Sundown” Williams in Top Gun alongside Tom Cruise in 1986.

He was also known for TV series including Matlock, and Walker, Texas Ranger.

UNLV College of Fine Arts Dean Nancy Uscher said that with “profound sadness” she was announcing Gilyard’s death.

“His students were deeply inspired by him, as were all who knew him. He had many extraordinary talents and was extremely well-known in the university through his dedication to teaching and his professional accomplishments,” Uscher said in a statement. “His generosity of spirit was boundless — he was always ready to contribute to projects and performances however possible.”

Who was Clarence Gilyard?

Clarence Gilyard was born on December 24, 1955, in Moses Lake, Washington. Before beginning his acting career, he spent a year at the US Air Force Academy as a cadet.

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He attended California State University, Long Beach, majoring in acting. He completed his bachelor’s degree at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

In 1979, Gilyard moved to Los Angeles to become an actor. He made a number of guest star appearances in the 1980s. His movie debut in 1986 was as an F-14 Tomcat radar intercept officer, Lt. (jg) Marcus “Sundown” Williams, in Top Gun. He was also a military man in the 1986 film The Karate Kid Part II. He also appeared as Reverend Bruce Barnes Left Behind: The Movie and its sequel, Left Behind II: Tribulation Force.

Gilyard married Catherine Dutko but the relationship ended in divorce. He then married his second wife, Elena, in 2001. He has six children from both the marriages.