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54th Commemoration of Reverend Weliwitiye Sri Soratha Thero: the trailblazer of contemporary Piriven University system and the pioneer of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura was held on 19th July 2017. Ven. Prof. Bellanwila Wimalarathana Thero, Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Prof. Sampath Amaratunge, Vice Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Prof. P. B. Mandawala, Dean of the Faculty of Technology, Dr. S. A. A. M Subasinghe, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Prof. Hemanthi Ranasinghe, Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and other academics participated in the Commemoration ceremony.
In 1956, following a change of government with Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike as the prime minister and conforming to the policy of promoting national languages and culture, it was decided to establish two new universities by conferring university status on the Vidyodaya and Vidyalankara Pirivenas. Accordingly, University Act No. 45 of 1958 established the universities of Vidyodyaya Pirivena at Maligakanda and the Vidyalankara Pirivena at Kelaniya.
In 1958, it was reconstituted as the Vidyodaya (meaning “awakening of knowledge”) University of Ceylon. Ven. Welivitiye Sri Soratha Maha Thero, who was the principal of the Vidyodaya Pirivena, was appointed the first vice-chancellor of Vidyodaya University which was ceremonially opened on 16 February 1959.
Ven. Welivitiye Sri Soratha Maha Thero is a fountain of great wisdom and knowledge and one simply cannot measure his worth by mere words. Therefore while no writing could do this great personality any justice, it should be noted that throughout his journey from humble beginnings as a student of the Vidyodaya Pirivena to becoming the Vice Chancellor of that very same establishment, the philosophy he espoused is what as we benefactors of his foundation should focus upon.
An extract from one of his many words of wisdom are as follows, “It is our mission to present the society with intellectual and not merely to breed graduates. If one endeavors to transform this sacred abode to a place where degrees are sold, or to a place in which student are given degrees in a mere mechanical fashion that will only lead the University as well as the country to be dragged in disgrace. If our graduates are not proven with the expected intellectualism that their degree claims them to possess, people will indubitably arrive at the conclusion that our University is a ‘store’ where degrees are ‘sold’. Thus everybody affiliated to the University should keep in mind not to engage in any act that will undermine the quality of our degree and the research work”.
Therefore as we celebrate this life wherein we value his eminent and charismatic personality, we should all strive to make this commemoration, a day with food for thought. A day that would truly remind us of our duties and responsibilities as staff and undergraduates of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura.