On Saturday, 22 March, I attended a La Salle Brickfields Secondary School Reunion Dinner and Fellowship event at the Bukit Kiara Resort in Kuala Lumpur. The event was organised by a 10 man committee from the Class of 1976.
For the LSB Class of 1976, this was their first reunion after nearly forty years. Most of the former students, now in their fifties, come from the Klang Valley but there were also a few from the other states, including Penang. One even came from Australia and I understand that there was an individual from Canada too. Such was the reach and influence of this committee.
Encouraging Response from the former Students
I was informed that sixty five former students attended the event. In those days when these students were in Form Three, each of the four classes had about 45 students. This was a commendable effort made all the more difficult because it was being attempted after a lapse of 38 years. The committee was also able to talk to two former students during the dinner via skype … one from the United Kingdom and the other from Canada. The attendees in the hall were able to watch the candidates as they spoke and listen to the conversation.
Former Teachers who were Present
The following teachers from La Salle Brickfields Secondary School were present: Low Kim Seng, Eric Koh ( both travelled from Australia for the event ), Denis Armstrong, Vivien Sequerah, Kathy Tan Eu Toh, Denis Doss and Benedict Morais. Present from La Salle Brickfields Primary School were: Kua Beng Hock, S. P. Nathan, Mrs Bala, Magdalene Chew, L. A. Fernandez and Albert Rozario. Also present for the event was Mrs Chee, the newly appointed principal of LSB Secondary School.
The organising committee even went to the extent of coordinating and facilitating the transport arrangements for the teachers. This ensured that those teachers who needed assistance to get to the venue or those who did not drive these days because of old age problems were provided with a hassle free service by others who were pleased to lend a helping hand.
Air of Optimism and Confidence
The whole reunion exercise was conducted with an air of optimism and confidence by the committee under the able leadership of George Tan Boon Sim. He had recruited nine other similar minded and enthusiastic individuals. From the results and from what I was told, the committee worked with great passion and commitment knowing that this was going to be quite a task to successfully pull off. If you have not met or kept in touch for 38 years then the task of contacting and reaching out to these former Class of 1976 students will be that much harder. But that seemed to be the kind of insurmountable challenge that these leaders needed to give them that extra boost and motivation. If I am not mistaken, according to Tan Meng Chai from the Class of 1976, the planning for this memorable event began months ago.
Old Boy Network and Social Media
The committee made good use of the old boy network along the way. With the widespread use of mobile phones, email and Facebook, the committee was able to reach out to very many former students. This was not just in Malaysia but also wherever they were overseas. One thing led to another and in the process they also discovered that two LSB teachers who had migrated years ago now lived in Melbourne and Brisbane in Australia.
This information was gleaned through a chance encounter between a former student who was trying to get to a dinner meeting in Melbourne, who happened to ask a train commuter for directions to the dinner venue. That helpful commuter turned out to be his former teacher. Talk about coincidence. That was an amazing bit of luck and both teachers subsequently attended the reunion dinner in Kuala Lumpur. The Gods must have been smiling!
The Welcome and Dinner
From the moment we walked in, we sensed that this event was going to be something extraordinary. There was a very good reception at the entrance to the Bukit Kiara Resort. A couple of the organising committee members and a few former students were on hand to warmly welcome, with much enthusiasm and happiness, their former teachers.
We could feel their friendliness, warmth and sincerity. They had helpfully sported clear tags on their shirts that proudly proclaimed their names. This thoughtful gesture made it that much easier for the teachers, most of whom are in their seventies and eighties, to know and use their names while conversing with the individuals.
The seating arrangements for the former students were left free and easy… they could sit at any table in the hall. However, there was a special seating arrangement for the former teachers. All those teachers present were seated in two rows facing each other, right in the centre of the dining hall. On all four sides of the hall were tables where the former students and their guests were seated.
The rationale for this arrangement was that it enabled the students to see their teachers from all angles and allowed them an opportunity to walk up and chat with individual teachers from time to time. It was, in short, a brilliant idea. I observed many students do just that throughout the night. There were also many former students who walked up to chat with me during the course of the night.
Array of Appetising Dishes
At Old Boys reunion gatherings such as these, the dinner is the excuse to meet. The food should just be incidental to the occasion… or so I thought. But my former students showed me otherwise!
It was certainly not one of the more mundane, boring dinners with a mix of equally boring, unappetising dishes. In their wisdom, the committee opted to give the guests and attendees a feast… yes, really a feast fit for a wedding bash! There was such an array of interesting dishes, including satay together with an equally wide display of local desserts.
In fact, one former student remarked that since they are all now in their fifties, they cannot ( or will not ) eat so much for health reasons. Putting that concern aside, the committee opted to treat the attendees and guests to a lavish meal. Such was the concern and care shown by the committee.
Supporters and Well Wishers
I noticed that there were a number of female guests and young children in the hall. I was subsequently informed that they were the wives and children of the former students.
Apparently some of these former students wanted to extend the invitation to their wives and children to see and observe first hand some of the teachers who had taught their fathers. One of the friendly photographers at the event was actually the daughter of one of the former students.
This was excellent team work in action at the event that night. It was good that these former students wanted their supporters and well wishers to see their former teachers.
Other Touches of Class
i. The chairman of the organising committee, George Tan, set the right tone from the very start of the dinner with some inspiring and rousing remarks. The emcee, a practising lawyer, did a fine job in moving the programme forward effortlessly. There were also a few other speakers who shared their experiences.
ii. The current principal of the LSB secondary school, Mrs Chee, also chose to speak to the crowd. She seemed very impressed and moved by the proceedings and by the spirit displayed by the former La Sallians from Brickfields. She also made an appeal for funds and other assistance.
iii. The Old Boys of LSB responded spontaneously and magnificently and in a matter of minutes raised RM 10,000 that same night. What a mighty show of support, loyalty and espirit de corps for their alma mater. The cash contribution was handed over to the principal there and then.
iv. If inviting the former teachers was not enough recognition, the committee went one step further and presented the teachers present with a glass plaque boldly emblazoned with the wording: In appreciation of our Teacher. It also had the words Class of 1976 and the all too familiar green, white and red logo of LSB.
v. The organising committee also invited the current president of the LSB Old Boys Association to the event. Peter Sinniah was, in addition, invited to speak to the attendees and he urged them to provide some assistance to the school in order to restore the lustre to LSB.
I was also invited to say a few words on behalf of the teachers by the organising committee. I shared my thoughts on the basic philosophy of La Sallian education. I also touched on the ethos, values and traditions that truly embody La Sallian education. I also took the opportunity to salute the old boys on organising this wonderful event.
Education needs to attract and retain the best of us. But that will not happen as long as teaching remains near the bottom of our professions in pay and prestige. Lee Iacocca, former Chairman and CEO of Chrysler Corporation made this statement years ago. He also famously said that: ‘ In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less!
Change that can Make the Difference
For that great and enabling change to happen in Malaysia, we have to take partisan politics out of education for good. Now that is a tall order! We need to return to what has really worked and has also stood the test of time. La Sallian education, as we all know and benefitted from it, certainly fits the bill. Dare we rise to a higher standard of expectation?
On a personal note, I have had the pleasure of attending a number of reunion dinner events organised by the LSB old boys over the years. However, none of these LSB old boys’ reunion dinners could match the careful approach, care and consideration exhibited by the Class of 1976.
The Gold Standard
The La Salle Brickfields Class of 1976 organising committee has certainly led the way in sheer organising ability. The committee has shown us all how to go about organising a truly meaningful, enjoyable and classy reunion. These guys have, in my opinion, now set the Gold Standard as far as reunion gatherings are concerned. It is now up to the La Sallians in Malaysia and even regionally, wherever they maybe, to try to meet this standard of excellence. They could, if they so wish, even raise the bar higher when it comes to organising reunion gatherings.
These old boys with renewed vigour and enthusiasm intend to meet again, this time in Bangkok, Thailand in 2016. I am sure that this LSB reunion too will set new standards in fostering fellowship and rekindling friendships.
Below is a copy of the Remarks I delivered at the event :
REMARKS BY BENEDICT MORAIS AT THE LSB CLASS OF 1976 REUNION DINNER AND FELLOWSHIP AT BUKIT KIARA RESORT, KUALA LUMPUR ON SATURDAY, 22 MARCH 2014
Chairman, Organising Committee
La Salle Brickfields Class of 1976
Supporters and Well Wishers
Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you for the kind invitation to say a few words.
On behalf of my fellow teaching colleagues, let me just say how honoured, touched and pleased we all are to be here tonight with all of you from that La Salle Brickfields Class of 1976. It is simply wonderful and humbling to note that even in your quest to meet and rekindle old ties and friendships, a big effort was made to trace and invite former teachers to share in this historic gathering. The silver haired brigade thank you again for that kindness.
It is almost forty years since you left La Salle Brickfields and I understand from Tan Meng Chai that this is your very first such reunion. Well then Congratulations! It is, of course, better late than never to meet and renew ties. The large turn out tonight, both in terms of former students and former teachers is a big tribute to the organisers who must have worked really hard to ensure the success of this event. Please join me in giving them a hearty round of applause.
La Salle Brickfields Spirit
Permit me, therefore, to salute your great La Salle Brickfields spirit and the camaraderie that has brought you all here tonight. You guys have really showcased incredible organisational ability in pulling this event off so successfully. Well done guys. I must also commend you for the trouble you took to even organise / coordinate the transport arrangements for the senior citizens. That level of detail, care and thoughtfulness is deeply appreciated.
Remembering Those Who Are Not Here Tonight.
I would also like on this occasion to remember those teachers and former students who are unable to join us tonight. Some teachers like the late Yeong Hin Hong, Mrs Low Peng Lum and Mokhtar Jamil have passed on. I believe a few of the former students too have passed on. Others have migrated or are working overseas. Let us all remember them as we celebrate.
What is Special about La Sallian Education?
La Sallian education has always had the enviable task of: restoring integrity; promoting unity; and fostering spirituality in our schools. Think of those lofty objectives for a moment and then contrast that to what is happening in our country today. I do not need to elaborate. Just reflect on your days in La Salle Brickfields………. that is what we call the La Sallian ethos, values and traditions. This La Sallian education has achieved with remarkable success over the last few decades.
La Sallian education, I would like to think, is synonymous with a responsible, holistic education. Sports, athletics and extra mural activities were an integral part of that La Sallian experience for many of you. Some of you may remember with nostalgia the extraordinary exploits of our athletes in track and field events, in soccer and hockey and of course the Inter La Salle Games. There was a unity of purpose in those days and although we actually belonged to three schools ( two primary and one secondary ) we felt and acted as one school! Those were the golden years!
All these special activities have, in turn, developed well adjusted, caring and compassionate individuals who are capable of factoring in the bigger picture.
Finally, La Sallian education believes in focussing on the LAST, the LOST and the LEAST in our communities. The quest of the La Salle brothers and lay teachers was / is to build a new world order founded in FAITH, cherished with HOPE and expressed in SERVICE.
Many of us here today are products of that wonderful mission. I wish you all more career, family and personal success as you go forward. This is your peak period career wise and family wise. May all your efforts be abundantly blessed.
Let us now continue to enjoy the night.