If former students are supposed to ‘repay the debt they owe’ to their alma-mater, Uddaka Tennakoon repaid his debt in full, and with interest, to Royal.
He served as General Secretary of the Royal College Old Boys Union, coached many a Royal rugby team, and served and chaired numerous committees that benefited Royal. His loyalty to and love for his alma-mater are undeniable; perhaps, it is no coincidencethat even his home in Maharagama was named ‘Royal’.
We were fortunate to have his guidance as one of our rugby coaches at Royal during the late ’80s. His understanding of the game and ability to inspire were remarkable. His pep-talks to the team in the dressing room helped calm the nerves, focus attention on the task at hand, and help the team rise to the occasion.
On instances when the team fell short of its goal, he was among the first to console us and steadfastly supported with the rebuilding efforts. His sense of humour was not lost among our team mates -- any mention of humourous incidents involving Uddaka, still brings out at least a few laughs!
Uddaka Tennakoon was a man of many talents, and his accomplishments -- both professional and personal -- are many. He held high ranking positions in several blue-chip companies, and had a flair for the arts with one of his better known creations being the English-musical version of the Guttila-Musila play. In his work-life, though he held director level positions for as long as we knew him, he was not the flashy, high flying professional who was so rushed, that you had to walk behind him to talk to him. Rather, his calm, unassuming, humble ways were the norm. His wish for a private funeral, to be carried out within a day of his last breath, is typical of his quiet ways, as well as his consideration for others.
Although he dedicated most of his adult life to serve Royal in various capacities, his greatest gift to a younger generation of Royalists is the manner in which he chose to live his life -- a true gentlemen to the core, who led by example. His humility, demeanor, presence and positive attitude have shaped our outlook on life and helped us become better individuals.
We are close to his son, Sudath, who graduated with us through the rugby ranks at Royal. During our playing days, Uddaka was affectionately known as 'appachchi' to the team, because that’s how Sudath addressed him. In retrospect, there is some significance to this, as Uddaka was a father-figure to most of us.
Sir, you have taught us many a valuable lesson, not just in rugby but in life itself. Undoubtedly, many others share our sentiment. It is indeed an honour and a privilege to have known you.
Uddaka Tennakoon is survived by his wife Ovadini (Dammi) and two children Sudath and Sanjeeva, and indeed the legacy he has left behind. May he attain Nibbana.
-Ruwan J and Thilan S.