ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 13

He served his country and alma mater

Dr. E.S. Thevasagayam

Dr. E.S. Thevasagayam, an outstanding product of St. John’s College, Jaffna passed away on August 4 after a brief illness. He was an erudite scholar, having obtained his M.A. from the Madras University, M.Sc from the University of California and Ph.D from the Woo Sok University Korea. He served his alma mater as a teacher and later as Principal, served his country as entomologist in the Medical Department and the Department of Agriculture. He served the Far East and the Pacific countries as consultant entomologist with the World Health Organization.

He had his primary and secondary education at St. John’s College and proceeded to Christian College Madras where he came first in the college and second in the University at the final of the B.Sc Hons degree examinations. He came back to his alma mater as a Zoology teacher. After serving the college for five years he joined the Medical Department and later the Department of Agriculture as an entomologist. The United Nations Civil Service attracted him and he joined the W.H.O. as consultant Entomologist serving for more than two decades in the Far East and Pacific countries. When he retired from the W.H.O., St. John’s College was facing a leadership crisis. The principal was assassinated and his successor retired prematurely due a to massive stroke. The ground situation in the North during 1987 was not at all conducive to anyone taking up the Principal-ship. Dr. Thevasagayam took a bold decision and offered his services as principal of the college.

He assumed duties on the first of January 1988. Just three months earlier the IPKF-LTTE confrontations had damaged most of the buildings and it was left to Dr. Thevasagayam to rebuild the college buildings. He set up a five year plan for St. John’s College during which time a new science complex consisting of laboratories and lecture halls and an administrative block and a Gymnasium were to be built. He found the funds for the projects from the old boys of the college overseas and from aid agencies.

The first building to come up was the science complex and before it could be completed fighting broke out in the North and all plans were suspended. During this period he went to U.K for a medical check-up and could not return to St. John's as intensified fighting broke out and transport to and from Jaffna was suspended. For three years he functioned as Principal from Colombo. During this period he never drew his salary, instead it went to a trust with the in-corporated Trustees of the Church of Ceylon.

Dr. Thevasagayam was a financial benefactor to the college. He established funds to help the needy members of the staff both tutorial and non tutorial. He put up two blocks of buildings, one in memory of his father, late Eliathamby who was a teacher at St. John’s and the other in his name. Both the blocks fulfilled a long felt need of the primary school.

As an administrator he was always available to students, parents and old boys. He had a soft word for everyone, but whenever he disagreed he had a firm but polite ‘No’. Transparency was the hallmark of his administration.

By S. Kanapathipillai

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.