Past Rectors of St. Peter's College

Very Rev. Fr. D. J. Nicholas Perera O.M.I. - First Rector  (1927 - 1942)

 

Since St. Joseph's College South made rapid progress, it was difficult for Rev. Fr. Maurice Le Goc to cope with administration duties. Therefore His Grace the Archbishop Most Rev. Dr. Anthony Coudert O.M.I. agreed to the suggestion made by the Education Department to establish the South school as a separate institution.


On the 16th of June the college was handed over to Rev. Fr. D. J. Nicholas Perera who assumed duties as the Rector. April 8th 1927 was a special day in the college's history since the college established its own identity as St. Peter's College, Wellawatte on this day. The foundation stone was laid on 6th March 1930 for the College Assembly Hall 

by His Grace the Archbishop Most Rev. Dr. Anthony Coudert O.M.I., followed by the Physics Block which was also blessed and constructed with the handsome collection at the Grand Carnival held on June 29th 1929.

             As the Hall was taking over the playground, an alternative was found in the nearby grass field adjoining the College. This was bought and the 4½ acre land was converted into the playground. The new playground was declared open on the 13th September, 1930 by the Mayor of Colombo Mr. H. E. Newnham. After the opening, the sports meet was held in the same year with Dr. E. A. Cooray as the Chief Guest. The new Assembly Hall was opened by His Excellency Sir Graeme Thomson, Governor of Ceylon on the 19th November 1931. After the opening ceremony, the Prize Giving was held with the Governor as the chief guest. As the number of students increased it was becoming more difficult to administrate the school under one department. So from 13th January 1932, the college began to function as two separate departments with Rev. Fr. D. G. Gunawardene as Principal of the Primary Department.

 

         Under Fr. Nicholas Perera’s dynamic leadership St. Peter’s made great leaps forward. In 1930 Dr. P. R. Anthonis world famous Surgeon and Leslie J. D. Fernando entered the Medical College and the Science Faculty of the University College respectively. Messrs. A. O. Wirasinghe, A. M. S. Perera and A. L. Perera followed suit and later joined the prestigious Ceylon Civil Service. In 03rd and 04th of February 1933, St. Peter’s challenged the mother institution, St. Joseph’s at cricket. Fr. Le Goc who was still Rector of St. Joseph’s insisted that the first ‘Big-Match’ should be played on the Peterite grounds which had been opened in 1930. The magnificent Hall was completed in 1931. The extension of the classrooms, a Science Block, Physics Theatre and the Priest’s Quarters followed in quick succession.

 

         As early as 1934, St. Peter’s under the captaincy of Shirley Illesinghe and ably coached by Mr. Herbert Wittachy, won the Tarbat and Jefferson Cups at the Public Schools Athletic Meet. In 1935, again under Shirley Illesinghe, St. Peter’s were Rugby Champions repeating it in 1936 under Archibald Perera. In a matter of a decade St. Peter’s had made its mark in no uncertain terms. From 1922 to 1943 Fr. D. J. Nicholas Perera had laid a solid foundation at St. Peter’s and he brought lustre to the College with his geniality, experience and scholarship.


       The students' dental health was taken care by the Dental clinic which was donated by Mr. James P. Fernando and it was declared open on the May 16 th 1934 making St. Peter's the third school to have a dental clinic. Prior to the Prize Giving on December 7th 1936, a new school building was opened by His Excellency Sir Andrew Caldecott K. C. M. G. Governor of Ceylon . A portrait of Very Rev. Fr. Maurice Le Goc was unveiled by the old boys in 1942 as a mark of gratitude. A momentous event took place on 9th November 1943 as Rev. Fr. D. J. Nicholas Perera bid farewell to St. Peter's College. A special assembly was held in Dehiwala with three branches all gathering to bid farewell to their dear Rector.

Very Rev. Fr. Basil A. Wiratunge O.M.I. - Second Rector (1943 - 1955)

 

           A Graduate of the University of London and a specialist in English, Rev. Fr. Basil's great organization ability was quickly put to use by Rev. Fr. Nicholas Perera by making him as the Prefect of studies and the Prefect of Games. And soon Rev. Fr. Basil who was the head of the administrative branch of the college took to the task of creating students who had the potential to bring St. Peter's to the fore front of the private schools at that time. Fr. Basil Wiratunga took a tight control of the main administration branches of the school and helped produce the successes in studies and games which quickly brought St. Peter’s to the forefront of Public Schools of this period. Fr. Basil assumed duties as Rector at a time when he not merely had to follow

a policy of consolidation and expansion, but first he had to re-build, resuscitate, and reorganise the College after the travails of World War II.

 

           His first task was to convert a war time military hospital that the College had become during the evacuation period of 1942 to 1946 into the school that had been St. Peter’s. Nothing could un-ruffle Fr. Basil. At times of stress and difficulty there was Fr. Basil with his calmness and his implicit trust in Providence. Whatever the magnitude of his problems he radiated that calmness amongst all.

 

            No wonder then that St. Peter’s College reached its zenith during the Rectorship of Rev. Fr. Basil Wiratunga from 1943 to 1955. Admissions to the University increased. In Sports, St. Peter’s excelled during his Rectorship. For two successive years St. Peter’s were invincible schools cricket champions in 1946 and 1947. The Primary School block and the College Pavilion bear testimony to his efforts to provide better facilities for the students.

 

                 The 10th of September in 1943 was a tearful day for St. Peter's with the demise of the great Very Rev. Fr. Nicholas Perera. But the sorrow was not felt deeply because Rev. Fr. Basil Weerathunga who was known and loved by all and who was also committed to the continuation of the great traditions of the school was appointed as the new rector.

 

         Since the church was primarily engaged with the tasks of running out missionaries and the ecclesiastical authorities they were finding it difficult to appoint a priest to the school for a long period of time. Therefore the rector had to shoulder the responsibility of running the school and administrating sports and studies. Matters were further complicated with the change in the medium of instruction in school because Fr. Basil had to find adequate staff to conduct classes. In 1955, Rev. Fr. Basil retired and St. Peter's under Mast.Clive Inman defeated St. Joseph 's for the third time in cricket. This indeed would have been a great consolation to Fr. Basil who worked tirelessly to uplift the game of cricket at St. Peters.

Very Rev. Fr. Arthur N. Fernando - Third Rector (1955 - 1963)

 

      Rev. Fr. Arthur Nicholas Fernando who succeeded Rev. Fr. Basil Wiratunga as the Third Rector of St. Peter’s from 1956 to 1963 will be remembered for the encouragement and support he gave to the development of Aesthetic Studies. But unfortunately in February 1942, the school had to be handed over to the navy to be used as a hospital. As a result of this handover Fr. Arthur had to look after a branch of St. Peter's College at Minuwangoda for a short time. Fr. Peter Pillai was the Rector of St. Joseph's College and Fr. Arthur was appointed as the Vice – Rector of St. Peter's College after his short spell at Holy cross college Kalutara. Then he traveled to the United Kingdom to read for his Diploma – in Education. While on his stay in the England he brought instruments for a fife and a drum band.

         When he returned he became the third Rector of St. Peter's and his first gift to the college was the musical instruments that he brought from England . He it was who started the first schools Fife and Drum band on June 30th 1956. As a result of which St. Peter's College became the first school to have a school band. This made our school band take center stage in all parades at National Day Celebrations. The credit for starting the school boarding also goes to Rev. Fr. Arthur. The boarding was a home away from home to the boarders and it had more luxuries than there own homes. His movie strip collection was very popular among young people and he trained them to operate the simple projector and lend it to them for their own use. He also had the rare ability of being able to pick out the correct person for the correct job. But sadly Rev. Fr. Arthur decided to retire prematurely from the rectorship.

 

A Cultural Centre to promote Music, Drama, Dancing and Art was started in November 1956 with the help of Rev. Fr. Mervyn Weerakkody and Rev. Fr. Marcelline Jayakody. Kandyan Dancing, Oriental Singing and the formation of Western and Oriental Orchestras came about. Rowing was introduced to St. Peter’s in 1959, as also an unit of the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade. It was Fr. Arthur who first had to beat the direct impact of the Schools take over from December 1st 1960 when St. Peter’s decided to remain as a Private Non Fee Levying institution. The Welfare Society came into being under his astute leadership. A fine organiser and administrator, he installed a modern Canteen to supplement the much needed finances. 

Very Rev. Fr. Mervyn Weerakkody - The Fourth Rector (1963 - 1971)

 

           The teachers' chances of improving themselves had slimed down. Rev. Fr. Arthur Fernando launched a few schemes to resolve this crisis by improving the schools finances. And when Rev. Fr. Mervyn took over his new duties as the Rector he had to face this problem but this uphill task was taken with a smiling face. Rev. Fr. Mervyn was born to a middle class family and knowing the difficulties faced by all, was a blessing for those who had difficulties because of his understanding and kind manner. This relationship provided the opportunity to all the old boys and well wishers to take part more keenly in college activates such as The Welfare society, The Old Boys Union and The Old Peterites Sports Club and breathe new life to them. These gave the old boys an opportunity gather around their old school.

         Fr. Mervyn also realized the problems faced by the parents and as a result he inaugurated The Parent Teacher Association of St. Peter's on November 6 th 1969. This gave the Parents an opportunity to be more involved with the school and its activities. As a relief measure for the teachers he established the Employees Provident Fund. More authority and responsibility was passed on to the lay teaching staff with the formation of Boards of Discipline, Studies and Sports. He came to school at a time when the very existence of the school was threatened, but he fulfilled his mission calmly and steered it through its difficult times. For this he was granted the opportunity of becoming the rector of St. Joseph 's College on 24th July, 1971. He will be best remembered for his efforts to inculcate the appreciation of Music, both as Teacher and Rector. Many have been the Peterites who chose Music as a career as a result.

Very Rev. Fr. Theodore E. Peiris O.M.I. - The Fifth Rector (1971 - 1975)

 

 Rev. Fr. Theodore E. Peiris O.M.I. who had been on the Tutorial Staff of St. Peter’s in the 1940’s succeeded Rev. Fr. Mervyn Weerakkody and was Rector from 1971 to 1975. To him fell the honour of presiding at the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the College on 18th January 1972. Even though the College still had a struggle on its hands where finances were concerned Fr. Theodore was able to muster support for the celebrations, which continued throughout the year. The Jubilee athletics meet was held on the 24th of June, 1972 with Rev. Fr. Basil Wirathunga as the chief guest. The Score board and the Score box were donated by Mr. Herman Fernando an old boy who declared it open.

             St. Peter's also maintained the distinct honour of educating foreign students who had risen to high positions. H.E. Ahmed Zaki, Prime Minister of the Republic of the Maldives was accorded a fitting welcome when he visited his Alma Mater on 7th January, 1974. Fr. Theodore had the courage and determination to make St. Peter's survive in it's hard times with the support of parents and well wishers. But due to his illness he couldn't continue as the rector and he resigned in January, 1975.

Very Rev. Fr. Cleaver Perera - Sixth Rector (1975 - 1976)

 

           After Fr. Theodore Peiris resigned, Rev. Fr. Cleaver Perera introduced by Very Rev. Msgr. Joe De Mel Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Colombo took office as the New Rector of St. Peter's on January 1975. He decentralised the administration with the appointment of Sectional Heads from Grade 6 to the Advanced Level. The First appointed sectional heads are as follows, Mr. William Perera for Grade 6, Mr. M. Balasuriya for Grade 7, Mr. A. Joseph for Grade 8, Mr. Victor Abeyagunawardene for Grade 9, Mr. Arthur Fernando for Grade 10, Mr. K. Jayasinghe For the Advance Level and Mr. P. Suthurukulasingham for the Tamil Classes.

Under his guidance and training the Peterite Choir reached great heights, a trend which exists up to today. Fr. Cleaver was instrumental in enlarging and renovating the College Chapel for the first time in 50 years.The new rector always endeavored to instill more vigour into teaching. In this respect he had regular discussions with the teachers to give a better deal to the students. During this period certain educational changers were being implemented. Instead of the usual G.C.E. Ordinary Level Examinations, the new N.C.G.E. Exam was held in December 1975. A new prize giving was held on 9th April 1976 during normal school hours, with students assembling inthe Quadrangle, the teachers acting as the Chief Guest and the Head Prefect reading the Prize List. The first 50 over match between St. Joseph 's and St. Peter's was held on the 16th of March, 1975 in which St. Peter's emerged the Winners.

Very Rev. Fr. Francis Madiwela - The Seventh Rector (1976 - 1978)

 

           After a period of mixed events Fr. Claver handed over the Rectorship to Rev. Fr. Francis Madiwala on the 31st December, 1976, who took duties as Director of the Catholic Press. Due to the unsettled conditions prevailing in the country the academic Year of the College commenced only on 17th January 1977. The new rector was introduced by Very. Rev. Msgr. Joe de Mel. His first step was to organize a number of Seminars for the teachers to refresh their knowledge in all aspects of teaching; along with this he formulated a programme to inculcate a spirit of devotion in students in their daily routine through the joint participation of all Sections of the school.

             The year 1977 marked the elevation and consecration of a former Prefect of Studies and discipline of the tutorial staff, as the Seventh Archbishop of Colombo and Proprietor of the School by His grace Most. Rev. Dr. Nicholas Marcus Fernando. He paid a pastoral visit to the College on June, 29th and was welcomed in a fitting manner. 


           His Grace had blessed the enlarged and renovated College Chapel, an idea conceived and executed by Fr. Cleaver Perera. The Golden Jubilee celebration of the Old Boys Union was held on the 8 th October 1977 in the College Hall with His Grace as the Chief Guest. On the 9th, the minds of the Old Boys refreshed with the enactment of "Back to Class" with those senior teachers present. A new constitution was adopted by the O. B. U. on 4th December, 1977, where a major change was witnessed with the appointment of an Old Boy as the President of the Old Boys Union instead of the Rector. Fr. Madiwala relinquished his duties as the Rector on the 31st December1977, as he was transferred to St. Thomas ' Kotte, as Principal.

Very Rev. Fr. Joe E. Wickramasinghe - The Eighth Rector (1978 - 1994)

 

           On 9th January, 1978 Rev. Fr. Joseph Emmanuel Wickremasinghe took over as rector of St. Peter's College. His first task was to re – organize the management. So he established a board of Administration which led to an era, filled with activities.
He installed a new public address system to communicate any urgent announcements to the classes and also to conduct morning and afternoon prayers. He installed a new public address system to communicate any urgent announcements to the classes and also to conduct morning and afternoon prayers. As a number of new students arrived Fr. Wickremasinghe saw the immediate necessity for an accelerated building programme. 

        His first step was to enlarge and improve the Science Laboratories with the construction of a new three storied building, which housed classrooms on the second and third floors. The foundation stone for the new building was laid on the 27th of August1979 by His Grace Most. Rev. Dr. Nicolas Marcus Fernando, Archbishop of Colombo. The new Science Laboratory building which housed the Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Zoology Laboratories with sixteen classrooms was blessed and opened by His Grace Most. Rev. Dr. Nicolas Marcus Fernando, Archbishop of Colombo on the 23rd March 1981.The Next phase of Fr. Wickremasinghe's building programme was to embellish the College Hall. A statue of St. Peter, the apostle, our patron saint was installed in front of the porch on the lawn facing the road and this was donated by a loyal Old Boy, Mr. Francis R. Gomez. It was unveiled on 8th October 1980 by the donor.

          In 1981 Fr. Wickremasinghe established an award called "The Peterite Gold" to recognize the loyal and outstanding services rendered by the students to the College. The first such award was made at the prize giving in 1981. In the same trend he established the Memorial prizes, to enable loyal Peterites to perpetuate the name of their loved ones by making a reasonable donation. The year 1982 was a special year for all Peterites for it was the Diamond jubilee of their Alma Mata. A special celebration was under way with His Lordship Oswald Gomis Cooray, the auxiliary Bishop of Colombo as the Chief celebrant. In order to cope with influx of new students, two new Houses were added in the Diamond Jubilee year, Basil House named after the second rector Rev. Fr. Basil A. Wiratunga O.M.I. and Arthur House named after the third rector Rev. Fr. Arthur N. Fernando. These houses first participated in the Diamond Jubilee sports meet Held on June, 26th 1982.

          Under the leadership of Fr. Joseph Emmanuel Wickramasinghe the diamond jubilee celebrations were held in the 1982. On 15th July. On 28th June 1985 His Grace the Archbishop laid the foundation stone for the center for Vocational studies overlooking the Primary quandrangle which was opened on the 1st September 1986 by His Lordship Oswald Gomis, the auxiliary Bishop of Colombo. The new building housed the modernized canteen, music room, the school Hostel, some classrooms and a new Computer Unit. On the 29th June 1988 a site for the Swimming pool was blesses by Rev. Dr. Dalston J. Forbes O.M.I. and forty distinguished Old Peterites laid the foundation stone for the Swimming Pool. While the Pool was being built a new three story building was added to the Primary School, along side the pool which was blessed and opened by His Grace the Archbishop on 6th March 1990.The swimming pool was blessed and opened by His Lordship Oswald January, 1991 January, 1991. In that year the Prize Giving was presided by the Honorable Minister Gamini Athukotala M.P. He thus became the first Old Boy cabinet Minister in Sri Lanka . In the same year the administration block of the College was established. On 1st September 1994 Rev. Fr. Joseph Emmanuel Wickremasinghe resigned from Rectorship.

Very Rev. Fr. Felician R. Perera - The Nineth Rector (1994 - 2005)

 

          With the retirement of Rev. Fr. Joe Wickremasinghe the mantle of the office of Rector was passed on to the youthful 9th Rector of St. Peter’s, Rev. Fr. Felician R. Perera. He guided St. Peter’s for eleven years with acceptance from Old Boys, Parents the Tutorial Staff and students and helped to maintain the high standards achieved during the term of Rev. Fr. Joe Wickremasinghe.

 

           On his shoulders fell the responsibility of organising the Celebration programme for the 75th Anniversary of St. Peter’s and the completion of the new 4 storey Middle

School Block. He has also built a new library and a very tasteful reading pavilion for the students and a gymnasium. The primary school has also got a new look with class rooms being done up and the garden turfed & paved, plus a new play area. The boarding which was closed has been re-opened and with the assistance of the OBU a very modern computer laboratory was set up.

 

        Fr. Felician would be most remembered as the Rector who founded the branch school in Udugampola, thus relieving much pressure from the mother school in providing a Catholic education to the boys of the area. He also further developed the branch at Gampaha, making it a much sought after school of the area. He managed to further build upon the great heights achieved in Studies, Discipline and Sports during this period with St; Peter’s dominating popular sports such as Rugby, Cricket and Tennis, while also being in the forefront in Basketball, Hockey, Football and Track & Field.

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