The Diamond Jubilee celebrations fell due during Fr. Joe Wickremasinghe’s tenure as Rector and on 18th January 1982 celebrations were duly held with a concelebrated thanksgiving Mass led by His Lordship Rt. Rev. Dr. Oswald Gomis, Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo in the presence of Archbishop Emeritus, Thomas Cardinal Cooray, their Lordships Rt. Rev. Drs. Nicholas Marcus Fernando and Edmund Fernando and 60 Priests.
[Photos 99, 100] The first Peterite Bishop, Rt. Rev. Dr. Joy Gunawardena, Bishop of Anuradhapura paid a visit to his Alma Mater in this year of the 60th anniversary. He was accorded a fitting welcome on 29th July 1982. Cadeting was also revived after 22 years in this 6oth anniversary year.
[Photos 101, 102]The celebrations of the Diamond Jubilee came to an end with the Prize Giving held on 3rd December 1982 at which the Chief Guest was the President of Sri Lanka, H.E. J R Jayawardena and in a fitting gesture, the College Hall was named after its builder, D J Nicholas Perera. The Nancy Wickremasinghe Scholarship for the best student entering the University, donated by Old Peterite, Anton Wickremasinghe, Chairman of the Film Corporation was presented for the first time at this Jubilee Prize Giving.
Also in the 60th year, where the House system was concerned, Fr. Wickremasinghe increased the number of Houses by adding two new houses, Basil House and Arthur House, honouring the 2nd and 3rd Rectors of St. Peter’s, Frs. Basil Wiratunga and Arthur Fernando, respectively.
He had the Dental Clinic shifted to a more convenient location in 1983 and reopened by Dr. Mrs. A Drahman. This was also the dark year in which communal violence was unleashed on Tamils (on 25th July) and the College was turned into a refugee camp for a short period. 1983, being the year of the 100th birth anniversary of the 1st Rector of the College, the school paid tribute to this great priest through the celebration of Holy Mass on 10th September, the birthday of Fr. Nicholas Perera.
Fr. Joe Wickremasinghe was away from Sri Lanka from 22nd July 1983 to 22nd August 1984 and Fr. Kingsley Jayamanne acted as Rector during this period of 13 months.
After his return to Sri Lanka in 1984, on 3rd October, Fr. Wickremasinghe organised a felicitation ceremony for the Old Peterite National Cricketers namely, Roy Dias, Vinothan John, Amal Silva and Rumesh Ratnayake. The Chief Guest for the occasion was Hon. Vincent Perera, Minister of Sports.
The far seeing priest that he was, in 1985, Fr. Wickremasinghe commenced constructing a three storied building close to the priests’ quarters to house the canteen, vocational training centre and the boarding which was blessed and opened on 1st September 1986 by the Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo, His Lordship Oswald Gomis.
The ruggerites brought joy to St. Peter’s when in 1985 they defeated Trinity College after a lapse of 44 years and Royal College after 10 years. Peterites also won the under 19 All Island Schools Basketball Championship in 1985.
He ensured the development of sports at St. Peter’s and for athletics he engaged Mr. Sunil Gunawardena, a famed Sri Lankan sprinter, as the Athletics Coach in 1986 and this paid dividends when for the first time in the history of College athletics, the Peterites won the National Schools Athletics Championship in 1986 and followed up with winning the Tarbet and Jefferson Cups in 1987 which had evaded College for 53 years which was repeated for 2 more years thereafter.
A swimming pool was a cherished dream of many a Peterite since the inauguration of the College and Fr. Wickremasinghe took up the challenge to raise funds for this, which he did through his appeals to Old Boys, parents and well wishers here and abroad. On the feast day of the Patron of the College 29th June in 1988 the site was blessed by Old Boy priest, Rev. Fr. Dalston Forbes and 44 Old Peterites laid foundation stones. Construction work continued during a period when the country was facing troubled times with a civil war in the north and a rebellion by the southern youth against the government of the day. Despite the scarcity of material and price escalations of hardware items, Fr. Wickremasinghe ensured that construction progressed.
While the pool construction was in progress, Fr. Wickremasinghe added another three story building to the Primary Section to increase the number of classrooms enabling a higher intake of new entrants to College. This building which came up alongside the pool was blessed and opened on 6th March 1990 by His grace the Archbishop of Colombo, Rt. Rev. Dr. Nicholas Marcus Fernando.
Eventually the pool construction was completed and on the 69th anniversary of St. Peter’s College, on 18th January 1991, the swimming pool was blessed and opened by the Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo, His Lordship Oswald Gomis amidst a large gathering of Old Boys, Parents and well wishers.
The first Old Boy Cabinet Minister, Hon. Gamini Athukorale was felicitated at College on 29th November 1991 at the Prize Giving of which he was the Chief Guest as the newly appointed Minister of Lands, Irrigation and Mahaweli Development.