3rd June 2001

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  • He never sacrificed his values
  • Man with a vision
  • K. Pooranampillai

    He never sacrificed his values

    To be the head of two prestigious educational institutions for so many years in the North of Sri Lanka, each with a history of more than 175 years now is unique in the annals of educational circles.

    K. Pooranampillai had an unbroken record of hard work for well over three decades. After a near quarter century of steering Hartley College, Point Pedro into lofty educational heights, he retired prematurely and accepted a clarion call by the governing body of St. John's College, Jaffna, old boys, well wishers, parents and teachers to come over to Macedonia to calm a turbulent period of uncertainty, when the previous principal took ill and there was no head for a few months. Generations of students and teachers and also educational institutions in other parts of the island will undoubtedly proclaim him as the most outstanding principal of all times.

    The purpose of paying this humble tribute is not to list the various reforms he made at St. John's for a period of nine years (1967-1976) but to relate specific instances which bring out his spirit of determination, vision and intangible values of educational excellence. As teacher for 28 years, from 1953 to 1980, I worked with five principals, but the longest was with Mr. Pooranampillai.

    K.P. is how we referred to him. In the early seventies, four of us teachers were summoned to face an interview for our Diploma in Education at 10 a.m. at Peradeniya University. We all taught in senior classes.

    The night mail from Jaffna would have taken us in time for the interview. But we decided to ask K.P. whether he would give us half day's casual leave to catch the afternoon Yal-devi.

    To our surprise he encouraged us to take a day's leave. His reason was that in the interest of the teacher and the school one should be fit enough to face a rigorous interview. His vision became clear to us.

    On one occasion, a boy was weak in English but the parent literally begged him to give a statement that his son's English standard was passable, to enable him to get employment in the Middle East. K.P. refused but went on to say that he would help him individually to improve his English. This K.P. did for a continuous period of two months. The boy dramatically improved and then the desired statement was given. K.P. never sacrificed his clear conscience at the altar of cheap popularity.

    To K.P. the value of true sportsmanship had to be exhibited at all times in any game. On one occasion in an important cricket match in the early seventies, our captain had called back an opposing player who was given out by the umpire for a slip catch. The next day K.P. was in his element at the school assembly.

    This was a good example where he could hammer down his idea of sportsmanship that our captain had exhibited. The intangibles of educational values spelt out in a very tangible way.

    He always coupled educational and moral values with deep spiritual insights. He was chosen as Vice-President of the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka when he was at Hartley College - a post that could be held only for one year. He was one of the few Vice-Presidents who turned down an offer to go abroad for a short time.

    His wife Peace is in every sense a living monument of the well-known dictum that behind the success of every man there is always a woman. He also leaves behind his two daughters Shanthi Arulanandam and Dr. Vasanthi Karunakaran and son Jeyakumar, sister Gnani Nalliah, brother Devanandampillai and many grandchildren, relations and friends.

    Thousands of his students spread all over the globe will pay homage to a man of 92 who shaped their destiny.

    Farewell Sir, we salute you.

    V.R. Amarasingham


    D. Jason Fernando

    Man with a vision

    Self-made man, with a vision To help mankind
    Always did things the right way
    Help in any way, his theme
    The poor, destitute folks were closest
    Built educational establishments,
    Places of religious worship
    Did not forget those advanced in years
    I would admire him for his power of endurance

    He was my closest companion
    We would talk for many hours
    For us he has left behind
    A great wealth of memories
    When duties in this life were over
    He departed peacefully.
    A day does not pass by when
    I do not think of him
    I hope one day I would meet
    My father beyond the horizon.

    Indrani de Silva
    On his 90th birth anniversary

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