Beyond the Quadrangle

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On Saturday 12 February 2011, on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the Old Boys Association of S. Thomas College Mt. Lavinia, the Weekend FT reproduced for the benefit of all readers a special message titled Beyond the Quadrangle given to the OBA newsletter, by Old Thomian, Chartered Accountant Ranel T. Wijesinha, the Founder and Columnist of the Thought Leadership Forum. He has in the past regularly contributed to the Daily FT. We republished this message in 2013, two years after its original publication in 2011. Against the backdrop of the Royal-Thomian, we believe that a reproduction of this article once again today, three years thereafter, will yet be of value to readers, in view of its continuing relevance and timeliness. Here is that message:


By Ranel T. Wijesinha

THE OBA @ 125 is a formidable score, which will provoke the desire to belong. A claim to belong, however, is not about a name in the class register in the archives of the school by the sea, a plaque that records a prize, a place in a team, or even the appointment as a prefect of the house or the school or much more. The number of times one attended the annual cricket encounter, rugby match or regatta while wearing the blue and the black on the outside does not also add strength to a claim to belong. Being a Thomian is much more than that.


Beyond physical infrastructure

What we often remember is the small club or the big club grounds, the chapel, the middle school block, the college hall, the many other distinct features of the college or that pure white border around the golf like green – the Quadrangle. All this was a warm and secure home away from home, for more than 12 years – the longest period we would have been in any establishment of learning. But this is reminiscing about physical infrastructure only. We need to move beyond the quadrangle, as it were – but yet, be anchored by it.


Beyond class teachers and classmates

We will also remember those who moulded us into what we are and that would include wardens, sub-wardens, head masters and members of our teaching faculty. We will cherish the memories of classmates with whom we played, fought and debated, some of whose friendships we yet retain.


The anchor

Yes, all this physical and people infrastructure would have anchored us down to a set of values, the principles of self worth and self-respect and a code of conduct that we might follow. This anchor will discourage us from drifting away from that value system. It is about an expectation we have of ourselves and the expectations, those around us, have of us.


Politics, the professions or business

We must be mindful that we cannot use the name and age of the school, its history and reputation or simply the fact that we went to S. Thomas’ College Mt. Lavinia as a defence for any action of any kind that may not be what a Thomian would engage in. In essence, we cannot take cover under the college flag. Thus, whether we are in politics or the professions, in businesses of our own or in blue chips, whether we are in Sri Lanka or overseas, we have to be worthy of representing the college flag.

If we are in politics, we need to conduct ourselves in a manner such that we do not have to battle the battles that we, as a nation, were forced into in the past.  If we are in the professions, whether it is in the practice of law, medicine, accounting or engineering or any other, we must remember that a Thomian will, in the first instance, ensure that he serves the public interest. If we are in business, we must have a conscience. That conscience, the yardstick by which we are judged, is not the value of the corporate bottom line and balance sheet alone, or the rupees and cents of our personal net worth achieved at any cost, and sometimes at the expense of many others. A Thomian is judged by much more than that.

Might I add that a Thomian is not aloof, arrogant or obnoxious. A Thomian is not over confident, offensive, defensive, insensitive and hostile. But at the same time, a Thomian is certainly not servile, subservient and docile. 

A Thomian is independent and objective, but can yet be a humble, team player. All this, of course, is a tall order and even Thomians are only human. But being Thomian is a tall order and the least we can do to belong is to continuously strive towards this ideal.

I believe that the message I have endeavoured to convey is a simple one. That message is that we do not have the right to claim to be Thomian until we continuously assess and self evaluate whether we are leveraging the values and discipline we learned at college and in turn, adding value to our families, communities, our professions and vocations, the nation or the world, or whether we are contributing to the erosion of each or any one of these. That indeed is the litmus test, of whether we can call ourselves “Thomians” or not.

Esto Perpetua!