ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday April 13, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 46

Great educationist with a spiritual message

Rev. Dr. W.G. Wickramasinghe

“We are journeying unto the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you.” – Numbers (10:29), The Holy Bible. I was deeply saddened to receive the news of the death of Reverend Dr. W. G. Wickramasinghe, with whom I had the great privilege of associating quite closely. I first met him in 1978, when I was a senior student at Trinity College, Kandy, where he had assumed duties as the school principal.

I remember the day of the special assembly, when the Bishop, as chairman of the school’s board of governors, introduced to our school this great gentleman, renowned theologian and educationist. We were deeply impressed by his neat attire and his most elegant, eloquent and impressive speech. We recognised him as a simple man but with a great personality – someone who was a friend to all.

Rev. Dr. William George Wickramasinghe, born on August 13, 1917, received his education at St. John’s College, Nugegoda and later at Carey College, Colombo. He obtained his Bachelor of Divinity degree from the University of Serampore, in Calcutta, his MA from the University of Oxford, in Britain, and his Postgraduate Diploma in Education from the University of Ceylon. He was awarded his Doctorate in Divinity by the University of Chicago, in the United States.

Rev. Dr. Wickramasinghe brought to Trinity over 30 years’ experience as an educationist, 21 of which as principal of a leading Christian school - Carey College, Colombo. He was president / head of the Sri Lanka Baptist Sangamaya for 20 years, chairman of the board of directors of World Vision, Sri Lanka, a member of the World Baptist Mission, and founder president of the Asian Baptist Mission.

In the Trinity College 125th Year Commemoration Souvenir, titled “Glimpse Into The Past”, Rev. Wickramasinghe’s tenure at the school (1987-1988) was described as “The Period of Expansion”.

According to the souvenir, Rev. Dr. Wickramasinghe was a man of tremendous drive, inexhaustible energy and mature judgment. His period of stewardship could be identified as one of hectic activity, with an abundance of colour and achievement. Helping to build the college swimming pool, transform Asgiriya into an international cricket stadium, construct two huge buildings on the college premises (one near the main hall, named after him, and the other a three-storey block replacing the school’s oldest building) and the farm school in Pallekele, are just a few of his achievements. He also helped to purchase the first modern school bus, the first of its kind to be owned by a Sri Lanka school.

During Rev. Dr. Wickramasinghe’s tenure, according to the souvenir, Trinity enjoyed phenomenal success in the field of sports, and that the school’s rugby and hockey were at their best. In athletics, the school reached a zenith in performance excellence, bringing in its biggest haul of trophies and medals since 1948. The school’s clubs and societies flourished, with new and adventurous undertakings. The College National Dance Troupe won a string of national dance awards and went on three overseas tours, bringing honour to the country by coming first in several international competitions held in the United Kingdom, Europe, Scandinavia and Australia.

During this period Trinity also recorded outstanding academic achievements, the souvenir article adds. Serving the poor and needy became significant events on the college calendar. Rev. Dr. Wickramasinghe also took a great personal interest in his staff. It was he who initiated the staff attendance incentive scheme, which is still in operation.

To head large organisations is no easy task. He too had to cross rough seas and face challenges. His response to difficult situations reflected his great spiritual strength. If he faced criticism, Rev. Dr. Wickramasinghe never fought back but instead prayed for relief. He believed that, rather than worry, one should be strong and have courage. His motto (from the Bible) was: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

After his retirement from Trinity College, he moved to his home to Ratmalana, where he continued to serve the Lord to the best of his ability. Rev. Dr. Wickramasinghe’s magnificent way of guiding people and showing God’s love to those who come to him enriched the lives of many. He believed that the man who walks with God would always reach his destination. He was a friend in Christ, and the students loved to chat with him and draw on his deep spiritual knowledge. I continued to do so, even after leaving Trinity. I would visit him at his home in Ratmalana whenever I could find the time, and spend a couple of hours chatting and recalling the good old days at Trinity. He was happy with what he did for Trinity and Carey, and humble enough not to take credit for himself. He referred to his success as “achievements with the help of others.”

Rev. Dr. Wickramasinghe delivered the homily at the wedding of my elder sister. The theme he chose was obedience. Something he said on that occasion is still fresh in my mind. He said: “Nothing pleases the Lord so well as our obedience to Him. The life in abundance will be yours only if you remain obedient to the Great Creator.”

Reverend Dr. Wickramasinghe often said that his life was a privilege from God. The hymn sheet for his funeral service acknowledged what he believed in: “My life has been a miracle of God’s grace, forgiveness, patience and the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit.”

At Rev. Dr. Wickramasinghe’s funeral service, the Bishop of Colombo, the Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera, said: “Our dear brother and friend always belonged to God. God lent him to us for only a short time, and He took him back. Let us give thanks to God for this wonderful multi-faceted creation who blessed the lives of the many who had the privilege to meet him and associate with him.”

I thank God that I enjoyed this great privilege. I wish to extend my deepest condolences to Mrs. Irangani Wickramasinghe, Rev. Dr. Wickramasinghe’s daughters Neelani and Shyamalee, and the other members of the family at this time of sorrow.

May his soul rest in peace.

By Sanjiv Wijayasinghe

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