The history of the DSA group – freshmen of 1959 – By Sriyan Jayasekera
The history of the Thomian OBA, is akin to an enormous tree that continues to spread its boughs in every direction. It had its roots in the Banyan grove in Mutual in the northern part of Colombo, where my maternal grandfather Mr D.F.Suraweera (1896-1902) was a student. That was at the turn of the twentieth century. Later the tree was ‘transplanted’ in a manner, and continued to flourish in the environment of Mount Lavinia, where now, the Thomian impress has been fixed upon one and all, reputedly as “the school by the sea”.
My father the late Mr D,S.Jayasekera (1947-1995) served on the tutorial staff for forty eight years. My personal involvement was directed by an invitation from my cohort to be the de–facto convener of my class group, under the banner, “Freshmen of ’59 – DSA era group,” (The cryptic initials are easily explained as representing the student body who happened to be nurtured under the incumbency of three Wardens, Davidson, Selvaratnam, and Anandanayagam). The group is also subdivided as the “Prefects group” and the “Librarians group”. We are privileged in having the ability to contact over five thousand members in a matter of seconds via the internet. Thanks to the confluence of energies in this core body of Thomians, we are now able to fulfil a wish expressed by the late Warden Miller in a letter to Old Thomian Mr A.d’ Seneviratne, where he wrote about his desire to form a society or guild for Old Boys of STC. (http://stcmloba.org/the-oba-
Around 2002 two of my classmates Niranjan Kodikara: (1963-1970 Stone House) and Lalith Amerasekera;(1959-1968 Copleston-Claughton), – it happens that Lalith was a past Secretary of the OBA of Mount Lavinia- voiced an opinion to try to re-group those of us who had joined the Thomian fraternity in 1959. I was invited by the two of them to help with locating long lost classmates who had not been in touch since our leaving school about 30 years ago. While this effort was underway, we began to organise our first, official,1959 class reunion, in 2003. I am happy to write that this has now evolved as an annual celebration in these past 11 years.
2009 marked our 50th year as being “Thomians”. Our 50th year group anniversary was a grand event and we were fortunate to have many of our classmates who are domiciled overseas actually join us in Colombo, for the event. To mark this milestone with something of tangible value, our fraternal group collected Rs 1.5 million as seed capital, of which the annual return on the capital would be allocated toward helping current students at STC who may face financial need in completing their education.
At College we were influenced by the moral, spiritual and intellectual stature of our loyal teachers. These traits that we were privileged to witness on a day to day basis, year after year. This in fact influenced our own thinking. When we left the precincts of STC and entered the world at large to earn our living, we took those lessons of our youth with us. Many Thomians in the DSA group over time have distinguished themselves, making noteworthy contributions in the worlds of Commerce, in the Armed Services, in Business and in contributing to the commonweal.
One recent example was the donation made by the trustees of the Gnanam Trust in memory of their late father Deshamanya A.Y.S. Gnanam. The Trust donated a new “Commerce Block” to STC; 19,000 square feet consisting of 11 spacious, state-of-the-art class rooms and three faculties. The brothers Arul (1959-1968 Buck), Rajaseelan (1963-1971 Wood) and Jeya (1977-1981 DeSaram), in their customary “low key” unassuming manner made the largest single donation to STC in its 163 year history. The opening ceremony was held on May 5th 2014 at the college premises, and the ceremony was graced by the Bishop of Colombo, who consecrated the building. As a matter of fact, this was not the first time the same family had acted as benefactors of STC. In 1962 / 1963 their late father equipped the Staff Room and the Music Room in the then,new, Lower School block. The Gnanam family has provided all Thomians and future Thomians with an outstanding example of generosity toward their alma mater.
It is quite remarkable and a source of wonderment that Thomians, via their vibrant Old Boy Associations, can still indulge their feelings of camaraderie and brotherhood which developed while they were students at STC. Despite the fractious divisions in the outside world, Thomians young and Thomians old keep proving to themselves and the wider community that they remain staunch and true to the values learned in their youth.
Another Old Thomian , Imtiaz Issadeen, who now lives in Japan, gifted a website to the DSA group. It serves as a forum for Old Boys to keep in touch with news about matters concerning Thomian. Tyretracks.com has now been in operation for a number of years and carries a wealth of news that can be accessed at will by Thomians anywhere at any time. The DSA group appreciates all the ongoing support and advice that Imtiaz so generously provides.
In 2007 the DSA group felt the need to reach out to our teachers, some crabbed by the effects of time and circumstance, but who are still around and eager and able to get out and about. Bolstered by the outstanding efforts of certain key members in the DSA group, we were able to felicitate our teachers now retired for a number of years. The event was a great success. It moved us to repeat the effort in 2008.
I personally have always enjoyed working within our community. I learnt the rules of community work watching my parents doing it in their times. I took a keen interest in extracurricular activities during my student days and was thus able to slot in the role of being responsible for the organisational needs in the DSA group. However, success in our group is due to the support of all the members who contribute by attending functions, offering their services and when required, by making financial contributions.
Our old handicrafts teacher Mr W.G Sugathadasa (1954-1966) said it all when he wrote to us after the felicitation. “this idea went deep into my heart and mind as I am also one such retired teacher waiting for my transfer to another world. I am sure this great event will postpone that day by a few more years for all old teachers.”
My sincere wish is that every Thomian will contribute to maintain the facilities we benefited from and enjoyed at college. All this in order that the Warden and administrators can continue to nurture the nobility of what are called the Thomian standards and values for future generations, and thus, make our family the largest if not a unique group in the world.
1959 – 1972