THERE WAS no wayang kulit performance by the dalang (puppeteer) himself but Universiti Malaya Vice-Chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Hashim Yaacob bid his colleagues farewell in other expressive ways.
Sporting his trademark trendy dark glasses, the outgoing VC gave a heartfelt speech to the hundreds of academic staff who had gathered at Dewan Tunku Canselor on Friday.
“There is a time for everything and today is the time for me to go. I will go back to my tempat asal (original place) to be a professor. It is a faculty (dentistry) that I have most knowledge of. I will not be kecil hati (hurt),” he said.
“I vacate this post to give someone who is better than me a chance. Do not feel sad about my departure.
“I thank you for the support you have given me, and the government for the opportunity to lead this great university,'' he said.
Prof Hashim, like his predecessor Prof Datuk Dr Anuar Zaini Md Zain (VC from 2000 to 2003), was given a three-year contract that ended on March 31.
''I hope all staff members will continue to give their support and cooperation to the new VC to uphold UM's tradition of excellence,'' said Prof Hashim, a dental surgery graduate from the University of Otago, New Zealand.
True to his reputation as both a scientist and a patron of the arts, Prof Hashim ended his speech with a Malay poem.
Staff present at the farewell gathering expressed their affection for the outgoing VC in numerous speeches.
One who was overcome by emotion was deputy VC (academic and international) Prof Datuk Dr A Hamid A Hadi. He had to stop and take a few deep breaths before he could continue with his speech.
“We have worked closely together for the past three years; and I just want to thank you for your contribution to the university,” he said.
Deputy VC (research and innovation) Prof Dr Muhamad Rasat Muhamad said that during Prof Hashim's tenure, the impact factor of UM's research papers had increased from 300 to 600 while the number of books published had risen to over 130 a year from only 80.
Many of Prof Hashim’s close confidantes took the opportunity to go on stage to publicly express their gratitude to UM's eighth VC for his leadership and contribution to the university. Some of them also recited poems praising his contributions.
A science lecturer, who declined to be named, described Prof Hashim as someone who was “daring” in his constant efforts at benchmarking.
“He managed to bring us together and work to raise the standards of UM,” said the lecturer, who has been teaching at UM for 15 years.
Prof Lim Chee Seng from the English Department said that Prof Hashim was responsible for ensuring that more professors had the opportunity to deliver their inaugural lectures, “an important institution in a university.”
Another academic, Prof Emeritus KT Joseph said that Prof Hashim was the best UM VC since Royal Prof Ungku Aziz. “He has done a tremendous job.”
For Engineering lecturer Prof Dr Masjuki Hassan, Prof Hashim has been an inspiration.
“ I hope they find the best candidate from within UM to replace him. I don't think there is an experienced enough woman candidate to head UM.”
Medical lecturer Prof Gracie Ong described Prof Hashim as a “charismatic and approachable VC, a man for all seasons. He wanted us to continue aspiring and was a very motivational leader.”
An avowed supporter of Prof Hashim and dean of the engineering faculty Prof Dr Mohamad Rom Tamjis said that the key performance indicators and core competencies required of a VC must be clearly laid out. “Prof Hashim has been great for UM and has made it into a world-class institution.''
Prof Dr Rahimah A Kadir said Prof Hashim valued and appreciated women’s contribution in education. “I can tell you that almost 50% of the heads of department at UM are women,” she said.
Head of UM's international relations unit Assoc Prof Dr Khoo Boo Teong described the VC as an “ambassador extraordinaire” who had strengthened relations between the university and several top-class institutions because of his leadership and friendly personality. He cited the two recent MoUs signed with Peking University and Fudan University in China as examples of this.
The ceremony ended with Prof Hashim formally handing over his duties to Acting VC Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Razali Agus and the singing of Auld Lang Syne.
It took Prof Hashim many minutes to take the short walk to the waiting Proton Perdana accompanied by his wife Datin Prof Dr Sri Nurestri Abdul Malek, an academic at UM. There were just too many people who wanted to thank him and wish him well.
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