Quote

He is the happiest man
who can see the connection
between the end and the beginning of life.

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Saddened by the loss, I write to pay tribute to my friend Sarath Fernando who died yesterday after a brief illness. First I knew him only as my friend Pushpa’s husband, the quiet thoughtful man with a good rhythm for Jive. We were of the same ‘dancing circle’.

Later I learnt of his knowledge, tact and personality when he surprised me by taking the Strategic Management lecture at the University of Moratuwa. I was reading for my Masters in Business Management in 2010. Sarath impressed us with his vast knowledge and experience. He kept on saying I want to share this story with you.. and then one after the other told us tales that would illustrate a management concept, of leadership, the spirit of teamwork, on communication and motivation.

Through these tales he came across as a honest man who had worked himself up first in the line of Accounting and Finance then management, later production, plantations and at the highest level of Strategic planning. He was the Director/CEO at Bogawantalawa Tea Estates Plc.

He was a prolific reader. What he didn’t know he found out. When he wanted to do something he just taught himself how. He was smart. Sarath had an MBA from PIM. He taught in several Universities and Institutes and he loved teaching.

ImageSarath is a past pupil of S Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia and get much of his grace and good manner from there. He actually taught us dinner etiquette which was definitely not part of the subject.

At the end of the semester he praised us on our group presentations and rewarded us with an invite to the North Cove cabanas in Bogawantalawa. He and his family made this stay a memorable one. As my second son, Ruveen and Sinithi teased each other, Pushpa and I chatted under the shade of a thatched hut, the beautiful landscape of Hatton rolling below our feet – none of us knew of what was to become. We  learnt of Sarath’s generosity and connected up with his family on that trip.

When I learnt of his illness I spoke mostly to his wife Pushpa. I only made brief calls to Sarath. I was rather lost for words and worried of tiring him. A week back I called to tell him that I had read the entire book by Randy Pausch, the famous lecturer at the Carnegie Mellon University, ‘The Last Lecture’. And that I was thinking of him. But I didn’t. Instead I asked him what he was up to – and offered to help him if he want any computer work done.

Death is a mystery and many of us don’t know how to deal with it. I hope his wife and daughter find some solace in the fact that Sarath touched many of our lives and inspired us to work hard. We would remember him as ‘Live Wire’.

No doubt we would all miss him.

Tribute to Sarath Fernando

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27 responses »

  1. I feel so sad and was shocked to hear this news. Since i was not in the country i am still feeling bad of not being able to attend the funeral . 😦

    In a way i feel its good sir since i might not have been able to take it, you attending your last journey of life. 😦 You thought us what life may bring us and what counts at the end. More than the qualifications the experiences you shared with us were far important. You were like a father figure to us.

    May you Rest in peace sir, hope our paths would cross in another life. 😦

    Esto Perpetua

    • Lakshan
      Just before the cremation the old boys paid respect. He was surrounded by many of his beloved mates. The college flag laid on the cadaver and one gentlemen (I didn’t catch on his name) made a moving speach which he ended as you did, Esto perpetua (Latin “Let it be perpetual”)

  2. It is indeed very sad that Sarath is no more with us. I was totally unaware of my friends demise until late last night when I saw the Obituaries. I attended another funeral at Borella at the same place but didn’t realize the remains of my friend was lying next doors. I felt very sad that I could’nt pay my last respect to my dear friend.
    I first met Sarath in 2008 in Dubai When we went for a trade fair. Soon I discovered that we had many things in common. He was a great philanthropist and believed in giving something back to the society. He was my referee who gave a very strong recommendation to my company. Today I am working for a MNC in a senior position because of him. He was in Singapore When my office called him for reference and he spoke good about me for an hour while he was on roaming on his mobile phone. He didnt stop with that and called me and informed me of the call from my office.

    This Morning, I started looking for his information and landed on this page. My deepest sympathies to his family and friends.
    Sarath!!!!! May your soul rest in Peace!!!!!!

    • Thank you Dilshan for your appreciation. I am sorry you missed the funeral. I thinkg everything was rather low key as Sarath was never the man for publicity. Let us remember him in our prayers and celebrate him in our own actions -like try to be as generous and gracious as him, share our knowledge and experience, groom the youngestors and give them a helping hand get into better positions.

  3. Thank you for the post and for all the wonderful comments. It has brought great deal of comfort to us on the night of his funeral.
    I am also envious of you for the chance to learn from him. He is my uncle but I never had that opportunity. We are all in pain tonight but at last he is not anymore..

    • Hari,
      When someone as wonderful and genrous as Sarath is snatched so prematurely it leaves all of us dumbfounded. This post and its thread of comments was to unrelieve some our emotions.
      Did you notice how grown men choked on their words yesterday? I was a family friend of Sarath & Pushpa before I had him as a lecturer and mentor – he’s a totally different person as a teacher. Sinithi used come and sit at the class (to catch her ride back home) I wish you had some errand to run and had chanced your way into one of our lecturers. They were nothing but fun. Sarath was full of surprises – you never know what he’d bring to class to demonstrate his point. At the later we had, had so much fun, it got me worried what we’d actually write as theory for a paper. Understanding our worry he brought all his books and said take what you want read up and return. We were so lucky to have him as our teacher.

  4. I knew Sarath since 2004, such a nice simple person, when ever I visit Sri-Lanka from China, he would some how find time to meet me and force me to go out for some lunch with him and have a long chat! When I last met him one year ago, when I noticed he had lost weight, I asked him are thins ok, he said sure!! He never wanted to be a burden to others. I remember how he always enjoys a glass of red wine and the western foods!! when ever I went all the way to see him in colombo, he never allowed me to return by bus or train, he would always ask his driver to drive his car and drop me at my home in Kandy!! Never seen a Sri-Lankan CEO like this, so down to earth!! He used to tell me how he enjoys the lectures!! How he builds homes for the poor, even when he goes shopping for groceries, he would buy the same things including fish and vegetables for his driver. So this is a good example for all of us! The more we go up the ladder we have to be simple, after all, when we die, we do not take anything with us!! we would either leave a good name or a bad name!! My deepest sympathies to his family!!

  5. I was utterly shocked when I heard this news. Only thing I could think to say was “WHAT….. Sir recovered right???” Maybe because we are not ready to believe that he is not going to tell his glorious life experiences with us any more… I can’t imagine how lucky we are to have such a great teacher in our lives. His lectures were quite different and unique, because it’s full of subject matters, life experiences, how-to-tackle-with-different-people advices, how-to-behave-according-to-the-situation discussions, fun… For an example one day he taught us, how to use which cutlery and how to place it if not yet finished or through during a meal at 5 star restaurants… Because he knew; he knew that his small discussions will help to get rid of some embarrassing moments of our lives.
    I think it’s useless to give a very very long list of his qualities because anyone who had talked with him, worked with him knows what sort of a human being he was.
    Thank you sir… Thank you for everything you gave us…

  6. I knew Sarath first when we worked together in 1977 at Aitken Spence Head Office. Although he left before me to join a firm in Galle with better prospects we always kept in touch with each other. I left for the UK in 1979. He joined me in London for an year doing his Accountancy final exams. We were students and did what the students did learning, cooking together and just enjoyed each others company. Thereafter he went back to Colombo. I always met him whenever I visited him. He was good with his staff and his bosses equally. Not many people are able to do that. He had a slight mischievous sense of humour which he will bring up now and then to crack jokes. I saw him last in August 11 and was hoping he would live for few more years. I didnt think that was going to our last meeting. I will remember him always and my heart felt condolences to Pushpa & Siniti.

  7. We all met Sarath sir in our Strategic Management class. Though he actually was a CEO, to us he was our beloved Sarath sir. Because that was all he wanted to be. A down to earth, humble human being who was just trying to make a difference in the world; I’m sure all of us have our own story to tell. And this is my story.

    Sarath sir was not only a teacher but a farther figure in our lives. That is how I feel. I remember the day we took that test in class to see how content we are with life. I got a really low score. I had a lot on my plate at that time and hardly knew how to handle them. Sir could have easily ignored that – after all it’s just a test and I’m just another person. But here is why he is so special.. he is so special because he was one of the very few people to give me time. To find out why… To find answers. His guidance was so heart felt and ‘right on time’. The amazing thing was that he managed to give all the correct advice at the correct moment and they really worked. No matter how busy he was.. no matter how hectic the day had been.. he took the time.. just to see that we get a fair chance in life. And sir it worked. I’ve got that chance because of your kindness and guidance. And I’m dearly thankful that I got to tell you before you left us forever.

    May you attain the eternal bliss of nibbana.

  8. I’m currently an undergraduate of the University of Moratuwa, Department of Computer Scienece and Engineering. Mr.Sarath was our group mentor. He is one of my role models and I highly respect him. He educated us with his generous knowledge and guided us with very valuable life experiences. He is a professional in teaching and one of the humblest and friendliest persons I’ve ever met. I pay my gratitude with most honors to dear Sir on behalf of students of CSE…may you attain Nibbhana….!!!

  9. My first recollection of seeing Sarath closely was when I went to meet him in his office to get him motivated to teach in the MBA in IT. I did not have to motivate him or beg him to take the class. In his characteristic dynamic manner he was ready to help us. I was very impressed observing him for some time in his office. He told me about how he empowered many youngsters. To me I saw a very genuine CEO. He was a sum total of all the good practices I had in my books. We (I went with Nishanie who was a lecturer at the dept at that time) left his office with him agreeing to do the MBA class, agreeing to teach the second year students dinning etiquette and agreeing to give us an alternate location for having the evening classes as we were having some trouble with the location. In the later years I realised that Sarath was a marvelous lecturer and a wonderful colleague who would come forward to help you in whatever way he may. He became a mentor to young students at CSE, a great teacher and a caring friend to our MBA students and remarkable colleague to the faculty. Last couple of months he really became a Randy Pausch by not only doing one lecture but taking a whole semester worth of classes for us despite his condition. Our assistant Thilina was very worried that he could not come “up” to the dept and was willingly running around to make sure that Sarath had a ground floor class room.

    Sarath was a man who put others before himself, one who believed in giving his best to the society. I am glad that I got to know you. I am grateful for the lasting footprints you left in the journeys of many a students. Sinithi can one day be proud of the man you were. My deepest sympathies to Pushpa and her. We will alway remember him as the “live wire”.

  10. One of those exceptional characters I’ve ever met in my life.. Sarath Sir as I always called him… A mentor carrying so much knowledge and experience in varying fields and industries, a fantastic lecturer who constantly related to his students, A man who had reached the very top of his career and most importantly a man who valued and understood the importance of humanity.. He was “A Jewel of a Man” and his personality was quite simply the purest expression of who he really was.

    My mind takes me back to the days of the Strategic Management Lecturers during my MBA at University of Moratuwa… His lectures were the most interesting to follow and also the most valuable since he always tried to relate his lecturers to practical incidents he himself had faced during his career… I also remember how kind enough he was to me when I was unable to be present for the Strategic Management mid semester exam due to a official trip abroad… He simply said “Putha take your time and finish your office work.. Once your back call me.. You can come to my office in Nawala and do the exam” That is the level of concern he had towards his students… That is how generous, kind and a quality human he was… People of that nature are extremely hard to find in today’s society and Sarath sir you will always stand among us as one of the greatest…

    I am deeply shaken by the loss of such a phenomenal character which was an asset to future generations as well as the entire country…

    Rest in Peace Sarath Sir… You have certainly touched the lives of many people… Your loss is deeply felt and we grieve our sorrow on this day…

    We will miss you so much and you will always remain in our hearts forever 😥

  11. I can remember how he taught us in his lectures for my MBA. He gave us not only subject matters but also some disciplines. Whenever I go for a cocktail party, I remind his advice like how to hold the stem of a glass of red wine. He is one of my greatest teachers, met in my life. He always told us very important and valuable things for our life. I admired his way of teaching. A great person. We love you for ever. I found his visiting card in my wallet, and It has been kept it from 2008. May wish nibbana Sir!!! on behalf of year 2007 MBA students.

    • I’ve been standing behind fellow students and colleagues listening to their appreciation of Sarath these last few days- I hear that he has taught since 2005 and his students reiterated your how Sarath Sir taught so muh more than the subject material. Thank you for leaving your appreciation.

  12. A great human being and a simple but organized man with so much talent and knowledge. He is undoubtedly the best lecturer I have associated in my life. This is a great loss for many communities for sure! May you rest in peace and be with God in heaven Sir!!!

  13. He is one of the best lecturers i had ever met in my life. Not only a good lecturer a valuable human being. This loss is not only for his family, it is a great loss to his students and entire country as well.
    We really miss him…. but he and the wonderful lessons about life he taught us, will be remembered forever…

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