Annual Prize Giving 2013 of St. Benedict’s College
|The Annual Prize Giving 2013 of St. Benedict’s College was held on Saturday, 8th November 2014 at the College Open-Air stage with distinguish Old Benedictine Professor Nihal Amerasinghe - Former Director General of Asia Development Bank, and presently teaching as Professor of Development Management at the Asia Institute of management in the Philippines, presiding as chief guest. (Professor Nihal Amerasinghe’s inspiring prize giving speech is quoted below)|
Master Kevin Charles Fernando of the 2013 A/L Batch who obtained the highest ‘Z’ score among all A/L candidates at the College was awarded the Bens 86 Batch Gold Medal for the Best A/L student, The P.C. Fernando Gold Medal for Best Academic Excellence at A/L and The Aloy P. Mallawarachchi Scholarship for the most deserving student to join University.
The Bede Puvimanasinghe Memorial Challenge Trophy for the Sportsmen of the year was awarded to Master Ashan Sugunakumar who was the Head Prefect of the college in 2012, captained the College Basketball Team and represented the Sri Lanka Schools Basketball Team and also won the Shot-Putt event at the National Schools’ Games and also the Discus Throw event at the All Island Schools Athletic Games.
Master Shehan Sixtus Dinal De Silva of the 2013 A/L Batch was awarded the 1964 Champion Cricket Team Gold Medal for Best All-round student for obtaining 3 A’s at A/L’s in 2013 with the second highest ‘z’ score among all A/L candidates at the College and qualified to enter the University of Colombo. He also represented Sri Lankan Schools’ Karate Team and the National Team for the Asian Games in 2005, 2009, 2011 and 2012.
Master Pramoth Weerasinghe was awarded the Sportsman of the year 1st Runner up for his excellence in captaining the College Basketball Team, representing the Sri Lanka Schools Basketball Team in Thailand, representing the college Athletic Team and holder of the record in the High jump event at College. He also was a College Prefect in 2013.
ANNUAL BENEDICTINE PRIZE GIVING
St. Benedict’s College, Colombo, November 8, 2014
Reverend Brother Director, Reverend Fathers, Reverend Brothers, Teachers, Parents, Students, Old Benedictines, Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon.
Thank you for your kind and generous introduction, Bro. Director. I am overwhelmed by the warmth and the spirit of Benedictinity in the welcome extended to me this afternoon. It is a humbling and gratifying experience. The Prize Day at St Benedict’s is a time-honoured tradition. It is one of the most important days in the calendar when the school celebrates its accomplishments in its scholastic and sports programs and honours its outstanding scholars and sportsmen. I am deeply honoured and privileged to have been invited for this annual celebration. I offer my congratulations to the Prize Winners and Awardees, and the teachers and parents who made these accomplishments possible. For those who did not make it to the coveted Prize list this year, my advice is keep trying harder. Success will come your way, if you persevere.
It was in 1962 that I attended my last Prize giving at the College before entering the University of Ceylon. I was happy to win the General Proficiency Prize and some class prizes, and also the Best All-rounders Prize for Cricket, and Colours for Cricket and Tennis. It is truly a memorable and emotional home coming for me today after all these years.
In preparation for this important function, I searched the archives to find its origins. The first Prize Giving at St Benedict’s was held on December 21, 1868, and the Colombo Examiner Newspaper reported thus: “The editor of the Examiner had the pleasure of taking part in an examination of the classes with General Hodgson, and had come out with the pleasing conviction that, the seven Christian Brothers had done their work with care and diligence, without any distinction of class, creed or colour. “ I must say, after my walk about at the College yesterday, I could echo the same sentiments expressed 146 years ago, that the school is well run and managed, and add that, the La Sallian traditions and values continue. Consequently, what St Benedict’s has produced over several generations are solid men – humanly, Christianly, academically, and professionally. This wonderful outcome resonates with the chorus of the College Anthem:
“True to our God and to All Men,
Follow we ever life’s holy plan,
Doing the duty that is to do,
Bearing the cross with the crown in view.”
Ladies and Gentlemen: On occasions like this, it is customary to honour the past, celebrate the present, and contemplate the future.
In honouring the past, it is significant to note that the College will celebrate its 150 th anniversary next year, a coveted milestone in the annals of any school. St Benedict’s has had a great record of achievements in the scholastic and sports arenas of Sri Lanka. I will not venture to name the distinguished professionals and sportsmen who have walked through the portals of this great institution for fear of inadvertent omissions. Benedictines have distinguished themselves in the fields of Medicine, Engineering, Science, Law, Agriculture, Accountancy, Business, Banking, Diplomacy and Public Service. It can be said that, St Benedict’s has been a trail blazing institution, producing some of the finest professionals of this country, many of whom have adorned positions of high office, here and abroad with distinction. Likewise In the field of sport, the College has had an enviable record. It has produced champion school teams, and sportsmen in national teams in a wide array of sports. St Benedict’s has also produced outstanding personalities in the Film Industry, Music, and Journalism. I would be remiss if I did not also refer to the Old Benedictine’s who have been an integral and significant part of the Catholic clergy in Sri Lanka. The College website has a list of 250+ distinguished Old Ben’s with their respective accomplishments, many of them pioneering and record breaking. This is a truly inspiring list, which I would enjoin younger members of the Benedictine Community to visit.
Moving on to celebrate the present, I am sure all of us examining the comprehensive school report on academic, co-curricular and extracurricular activities and achievements, would like to congratulate Bro Director on the completion of another successful year. It is an impressive report. My mind naturally went back to my times at College, as every Old Boy would like to think that, he belonged to the golden age of the school. So let me benchmark what I read against the times when I knew the school,and thought the world of it.
It is evident that St Benedict’s has grown in numbers and complexity. The College is now 2500+ strong as opposed to 1300 students during my time. It has three language streams now, as opposed to two in the levels up to Grade 10, and only English medium instructions at the University Entrance during my time. The current language streaming requires teachers in three streams, and ensuring uniform standards across the board, would indeed be challenging. I was happy to hear the accolades of Bro Director for the hard working and dedicated teachers. The teachers are indeed the lifeblood of the school and we salute them. Let us ask the good Lord, the giver of all wisdom and the greatest of all teachers, to look upon our teachers with love and to bless them, endow them with gentle patience, kindle a spirit of passion in them, help them to see the potential in each student, and instil in them a commitment to keep learning. For the teachers who often feel neglected, I would like to leave these words of encouragement and hope with you: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give. It is more blessed to give than receive,” Acts 20:35. The teachers should also find solace in the sobering words inscribed at the foot of the statue of our saintly founder at the entrance to the College which reads, “Blessed are they that instruct many unto justice, for they shall shine as stars for all eternity.”
I am truly amazed at the expansion of the co-curricular and extracurricular activities of the College. I noted several clubs which were non-existent during my time such as: the De La Salle Club, Interact Club, Science Union, Commerce Union, Library Union, Sinhala Debating Union, Tamil Debating Union. Media Unit, IT Society, Sinhala Literary Union, English Literary Union, Shakespeare Drama Club, the Choir, and the Western Band. This is an impressive list and many have performed outstandingly at the national level, as we read in the news from time to time. Some of these activities are essential in providing the functional literacy required in the work place today. The 21st Century has been dubbed the Knowledge Century. Education and innovation will be the future drivers of the economies of countries globally and nationally. Information and Communications technologies are opening up new horizons. Traditional professional fields are also adapting to the new ICT revolution, and opportunities in the Business Processing Operations are growing exponentially. Human capital will be the key to economic and social development of the future. The world is on the cusp of another technological revolution. Our students must not be left out. We would like to thank our exemplary teachers who direct the co-curricular activities and are providing the foundations for our students to venture into the possibilities of the future. A special word of appreciation and a call for more support from loyal Old Bens who have supported these important activities, from near and afar. We need to redouble our efforts in these new areas.
Looking at performance in the academic area, I am glad that students in the Sciences, Arts and Commerce, our traditional fields of learning, continue to receive a solid education which prepares them well for the GCE O-level and A- Level examinations. I am delighted that the 2013 O-level results were excellent, with 5 students getting 9A’s, 8 students 8A’s, 10 students 7A’s , and 12 students 6A’s. This followed the outstanding 2013 results. Congratulations to the teachers and parents who have made these results possible. It’s the triumvirate of students, teachers and parents pulling together that can produce such good results. Moving to A- Level results, I observed that in 2012, 15 students, and in 2013, 26 students entered the Universities. I recall 50+ years ago we had similar results. Reggie Philips our revered Physics teacher would chide us about the effort he and his conscientious colleagues were making with average outcomes. He would lament, “What’s the use, only 20 of you will go to University.” It seems the numbers have not changed much since that time. This calls for attention. However, in fairness, it must be said that in 2013, as many as 100 students qualified to enter the Universities, but the tight competition allowed only 26 percent to enter.
Moving to the field of sports, I am happy that the College is generally doing well, although not consistently. I note with pleasure the good performances in Cricket, Athletics, Rugby football, Basket Ball, Hockey and Soccer. My felicitations to the Masters-in-Charge and the coaches who have made this possible. I salute the Old Bens rallying round the Cricket and Rugby Wings, who have devoted their valuable time, energy and financial support to their chosen sports, with positive results. I would encourage the other sports to form their own support communities as well. This will surely have a positive impact on Benedictine sports and is the way forward.
In contemplating the future, I would like to begin by sharing some real life experiences, as we do in Management School.
In 1962, four nervous young musicians had their first audition before the Decca Recording Company. The company was not impressed. While turning down the group of musicians, the company said, “We don’t like your sound. Groups of guitars are on their way out.” Did the musicians give up? No they did not. The Group became the time honoured Beatles.
In 1954, Jimmy Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry musical company, fired a singer after the first performance. They told him, “You ain’t going nowhere my son. You ought to go back to driving a truck.” Did he pack up his things and go home? No he didn’t. He went on to become one of the world’s most popular singers, Elvis Presley.
Now let us move to the field of science.
When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, it was not an instant success. Bell made a demonstration call to President Rutherford Hayes, the US President who said, “That’s an amazing invention, but who would ever want to use one of them?” Bell did not quit. Telephones, as we know, are a way of life today.
When Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, he tried over 2000 experiments before he got it to work. A reporter asked him how he felt, to fail so many times. He said, “I never failed once in inventing the light bulb. It happened to be a 2000-step process. That is the mark of a true champion.
Let’s move to sports this time. Have you heard of Wilma Rudolph?
Wilma Rudolph was the 20th of 22 children. She was born prematurely and her survival was doubtful. When she was four years old, she contacted double pneumonia and scarlet fever which left her with a paralyzed left leg. At age nine, she removed the metal support she had been using and began to walk without it. By 13, she had developed a rhythmic walk, which doctors said was a miracle. That same year, she decided to be a runner. She entered a race and came last. For the next few years, every race she ran she came last. Everyone told her to quit but she kept running. One day she actually won a race. This was the turning point. Eventually, this little girl who was told she would never walk again, went on to win three Olympic gold medals. Now that was a real champion.
More recent “famous” failures include, the billionaire Bill Gates of Microsoft fame, who was a Harvard dropout. And the late Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, who dropped out of a little known University, after only 18 months. These dropouts never quit, as we all know, and made extraordinary contributions to industry and philantrophy.
Dear Students: Real Champions are not the ones who never fail, but the ones who never quit. Remember, to quit is not in the vocabulary of Champions.
Echoing the same thought, Sir Winston Churchill in a commencement address at Oxford University said, “My dear graduates, never give up. ” Confucius, the great Chinese philosopher said something deeper, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but rising every time we fall.” I hope these words of wisdom will resonate with you through life.
Dear Students and Parents:
I would like today’s celebration of achievement to also serve as an opportunity for inspiration, especially for those boys who may have resigned themselves to a “prize-less” level of performance. It would be a mistake to see events like today as a celebration only for top achievers and awardees. Today, is very much about each boy who is here, taking stock of the results of his effort, attitude and motivation during the last year. Each boy here, has the potential and the opportunity to be the recipient of future awards. Today is about affirmation, it is about commitment, and seeking inspiration. It is about the future, as much as it is an acknowledgement of the past. But most importantly, it is about the present. And the power each of us has to create new possibilities from this moment forward.
With this in mind, I have three points to share with you based on my experience in life: (1) the power of choice; (2) setting goals based on values; and (3) being passionate about what we do.
The Power of Choice: We make choices all the time, from the moment we wake up until we go to bed. Do I go to school today, or do I stay at home. Do I listen in class or do I attempt to send an SMS to a friend. Do I do my home work or copy my friends work. These are some choices we often make. What we must begin to realise is that, the choices we make can bring us closer or take us away further from our dreams and goals.
The clever student is the one who consciously makes smart choices. Take a moment to look at the choices you need to make in your life – in your studies, in your family, or in your friendships. What kind of clever choices are we going to make? To achieve any result, choices must be followed by actions to support the choice. I had to grapple with the difficult choice, how much time I should devote to sport vs my academic work, and this went on from College to University. I gave up my cricket captaincy of the Peradeniya University team and my place in the University of Ceylon Sara Trophy team, when I realised I had a chance of passing first in my University Finals. It was a painful choice but a good decision. I passed first in my batch and won the University Prize (1966), I was offered a position in the Faculty of Agriculture(1966), and won the prestigious Commonwealth Scholarship to the U.K.(1968), and the Agricultural Development Council of New York Fellowship (1970), as a consequence. The rest is history.
This brings me to my second point, setting goals. The effectiveness of the actions we take is determined by how clearly our goals are defined.
Goal setting is a powerful tool that facilitates the achievement of our dreams. It helps us to focus our attention, and to organise our time and resources. Goals that are achieved, motivate us to achieve even more, and boost our belief in our own ability, creating a boldness to strive beyond the limits we may have set ourselves. Success breeds success. And we know that nothing succeeds like success.
When we set our goals based on values, there is an overall improvement in our lives. For example, if we declare excellence as our life’s goal, then every area of our life will be an opportunity for excellence to show up because that is the standard set: our academic results would need to be excellent, our sporting achievements would need to be excellent, our relationships need to be excellent; the way we speak, our conduct, and our manner of dressing, all need to be excellent.
Values are influenced by the home and school environments. We need to influence children to aspire to achieve higher goals, both at home and school, and keep reminding them. The school report is an excellent way to monitor progress and to provide a feedback mechanism. Parents cannot shy away from their responsibilities and expect the school to take care of value formation and performance. It has to be a joint effort of parents and teachers leading by example and being a positive influence. I was fortunate to grow up in a home where excellence was the norm in whatever we did, and there were good role models to follow. Let me leave you some words of inspiration: “The size of your success is determined by the size of your belief. Everything is possible for him who believes,” Mark 9:23.
This brings me to my third point: being Passionate. When we experience success in achieving what we have set out to achieve, we start to enjoy our success, and striving becomes fun. I have worked for almost five decades and never considered work a chore, it has been fun. When we use our skills and talents to do something meaningful and significant in our lives, we develop passion, and work is a pleasure. With this flows discipline and commitment which are fundamental for success.
Being passionate is a choice. It is a choice we make to bring enthusiasm, commitment and enjoyment to the value-based goals we set. When we are passionate we do things to the best of our ability. We do more than what is required. We are positive and enthusiastic. We inspire others by our example.
Passion is contagious. It is a life force that brings about advancement. Dear Students: Develop a passion for learning as it will ensure your continued success. Learn from every opportunity and experience in life, and never stop learning.
Let me close this reflection on the future with a quote from Edgar Albert Guest:
“You are the fellow who has to decide.
Whether you’ll do it or toss it aside.
You are the person who makes up your mind.
Whether you’ll lead or linger behind.
Whether you’ll try for the goal that’s afar.
Or just be contented to stay where you are.”
We all have the Power of Choice and that is exactly what choice is: Power. Be it academic progress, sporting excellence, or life itself, each and everyone of us has a choice to be excellent or mediocre. WHAT DO YOU CHOOSE?
My parting words to you: Life is a journey, live your dreams, and dwell in the possibilities. Be constantly reminded of a line from the College Anthem which you sing often as you walk through life:
“High be your aim in life’s onward view.”
In conclusion: I thank St Benedict’s for guiding and moulding us through the formative years of our lives imbued by the values of Religio, Mores, Cultura. In this regard, I am sure I am joined by all Benedictines, in profoundly thanking our beloved De La Salle Brothers and lay teachers, of the past and present, for their dedication and commitment to impart knowledge and wisdom, with a strong religious ethos. My earnest prayer and wish is that, the present and future generations of Benedictine’s, will be loyal and uphold the great traditions of our Alma Mater with honour, and respect its Motto, Flag and Anthem; so that St Benedict’s can continue to produce outstanding citizens in all spheres of life, for the prosperity of Sri Lanka and the World.
GOD BLESS ST BENEDICT’S! AND MAY GOD BLESS US ALL!
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