JR Lucas breaks the Ice at Toastmaster's Club of University of Moratuwa
Was I named after the first Executive President JR ?
Madam Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and dear Guests
I do not think so but I will give you some facts which may suggest otherwise. I do know that his Excellency bearing my initials, was my next door neighbour. He may even have been present, at my birth; for I was born, not in a nursing home or hospital, but at my humble home at Ward Place. His Excellency was also my witness at my wedding not many months after assuming duties as the first executive president.
Does my opening tell anything about myself ? I believe it does. I like to mix humour, riddles and the ridiculous with the serious.
Let me now relate some incidents in my life, which will tell you who I am and what I do differently.
Like the first Madam Executive President of Sri Lanka, I started my education at St Bridget’s Montessori. Although I was given a double promotion from the Montessori to the Upper Kindergarten, I was inadvertently placed in the Lower Kindergarten at St Joseph’s, the school of the second Executive President, and I lost one year. This grave injustice was discovered only many years later when it was too late for rectification.
Not to be outdone, I would have decided at that tender age that I will somehow regain the year lost on entry to St Joseph’s. This I very successfully did twelve years later by joining the four year engineering degree programme at Peradeniya at the age of nineteen and completing it by the age of twenty-one.
Isn’t Twenty-one minus nineteen just two years ? I will leave it to you to figure out as this is not a lecture on analysis.
While at St Joseph’s, I was involved in many extracurricular activities, from playing softball cricket during the breaks, to captaining the school team in table tennis. I was also a prefect who took his duties seriously and once got ticked off from a spectator for partially blocking his view at a cricket match while on duty.
I also believed that studies was not everything, that I needed to be a whole person and also took a keen interest in home gardening. I grew a variety of crops from bandakka to wattakka in a 15 perch vegetable garden in the heart of Colombo, and if I remember correctly sold the produce to my father for a few cents of additional pocket money.
At Peradeniya, where I undertook my first degree in Engineering, I did not stay at the Akbar Nell hall next to the Faculty, but at Jayatilaka hall which was across the river so that I could enjoy reasonable length walks daily. This also gave me enormous opportunities to take part in sports as the gymnasium was not very far away, and the tennis courts just outside the hall. Through playing sixes in tennis but not in cricket, I got hall colours for both. I also captained the hall team, and played for the University team at table tennis.
Coming to the academic sphere, I selected Fluids as my elective subject in the final year as it was relevant to hydro-power and was also considered a killer, and no one from the electrical stream offering Fluids had ever got a first class. Obviously, I too failed to beat the odds, but that year not a single graduate in Engineering was to get a first class.
Not many of you will know that my parallel batch was the first at Moratuwa, and that I taught some of my class-mates for one year before my departure for higher studies.
You will probably not even dream of getting a scholarship the way I got mine. I had been released to Peradeniya after joining the staff at Moratuwa, to complete the period of instructorship, which I had commenced there.
One weekend, when I had come home, a person from UNESCO came to visit me at home and asked me to fill the application form to give me scholarship for higher studies. With this UNESCO fellowship I proceeded to the UK.
Walking is something I liked to do and, I went on the famous “Boggle Stroll” to collect money for charity and walked a distance of 22 miles at one stretch.
I was also the captain of the hall table tennis team and we became the joint winners of the Stopford cup during my captaincy. I also regularly played snooker and bridge in the evenings, and in inter-hall events.
While doing my research towards my doctoral degree, I learnt that perhaps the best input to one’s research comes from the informal discussions at the coffee room where I spent many hours. This lead to my finishing both my Master’s degree and my Doctoral degree in a period of just three years.
Having returned to Sri Lanka after higher studies, I spent 30 years in teaching students, and moulding the younger staff to be the most friendly and accessible in our university.
At the age of 30, I married my wife Ramala, and we have a daughter Roshanthi. She followed in my footsteps and graduated from Moratuwa. To my great pride, she also took part in many extracurricular activities, including compeering and leadership activities.
Which bring me to my nemesis, public speaking, where I have failed miserably the few times I have tried. The problem with public speaking for me is the lack of coherent information coming to mind during the speech. Subsequent information cannot be easily deduced or analysed as in technical lectures.
That is why, with so many executive presidents to support me, with the help of Toastmaster’s, I am destined to become the next executive president of Sri Lanka.
Over to you Madam Toastmaster.