Answering call of alma mater

Wong (in brown batik shirt) singing the national anthem with fellow Xaverians during the ‘Alma Mater’s Call to Industry Leaders’ gathering.

OLD memories flooded back for former Kuala Lumpur mayor Tan Sri Kamaruzzaman Shariff, 80, as soon as he walked into his alma mater St Xavier’s Institution (SXI) in Penang for a reunion.

“When I started studying here, we were taught in attap huts. Then we moved into the school building in 1954 when I started Form One.

“I was here all through my schooling years, leaving only after completing Form Six.

“My Xaverian spirit is very strong. I am a true-blue student of this school,” he said.

He expressed gladness for his sterling educators.

“The school gave me proper guidance, education, discipline, integrity and a good conscience that have guided me in life,” said Kamaruzzaman who was mayor of Kuala Lumpur from 1995 to 2001.

He is still very much involved with his alma mater.

Also back to soak in the vibes of the hallowed halls of SXI was Star Media Group adviser Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai.

“We benefitted greatly from the education provided by the missionary La Salle Brothers.

“SXI produced many top personalities in the country and it is interesting that the school is going co-ed this year.

“It has been a good school for many of us and shaped us in many ways.

“I am sure we old students will be able to assist the school in some way or other,” he said.

Wong said this was the first time he was back at the school for a big event.

“I have visited the school before this but never with other former students.

“Even The Star’s first editor, managing director and founder KS Choong was a Xaverian.

“Many editors at The Star were Xaverians,” he said.

The other top editors from SXI were Hng Hung Yong, Datuk Ng Poh Tip, Michael Aeria, Datuk Wong Sulong and the late Datuk Khor Cheang Kee.

Kamaruzzaman and Wong were among the many former students who attended the recent “Alma Mater’s Call to Industry Leaders” dinner in conjunction with the school’s 170th anniversary at the Heah Joo Seang Hall at SXI.

The congregation of old boys made an eye-popping who’s who list of dignitaries, including Prof Dr Ishwar Parhar from Monash University Malaysia and Datuk Paul Kiong, one of the four surviving recipients of Malaysia’s highest award, the Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa.

Kiong gallantly fought the communists by infiltrating as an undercover agent during the Emergency.

Also present was Lotus Group founder and chief executive officer Tan Sri R. Doraisingam Pillai.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow, who was guest of honour, lauded the school’s rich tradition and history.

“SXI’s history shows that without the help of English, Dutch, German, local Malay, Chinese and Indian benefactors, the school would not be what it is today.

“Even with all the benefactors, the growth of the school was not without trials and tribulations. However, it persevered because of its strength and beliefs,” he said.

Chow added that the La Salle Brothers’ lifelong dedication to education must not be in vain.

During the dinner, which saw the Xaverians in a merry mood and enjoying a sing-a-long session, SXI board of governors chairman Victor Tan shared some of the plans for the school.

“The school will be taking in students from Convent Light Street as it is set to close by the end of this year.

“After 170 years of being a school for boys, we will be going co-ed this year,” he announced.

SXI will take in the first batch of Form One girls from nearby Convent Light Street in March. Previously, only Form Six had schoolgirls.

“We are looking for old boys who are willing to help the school with curricular activities.

“We intend to upgrade our sports facilities as well,” Tan added.

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