About 100 members of the WOU community gathered at the main campus for a tribute lunch in honour of a consummate gentleman and a great man - none other than outgoing Vice Chancellor Tan Sri Emeritus Prof Gajaraj Dhanarajan
The homage paid to Prof Dhanarajan tried to do justice to a strong, compassionate leader, who still retains his humility in spite of his many accolades and accomplishments.
In his speech, Vice Chancellor Prof Wong Tat Meng shared that he has known Prof Dhanarajan, whom he fondly calls Raj, for over 35 years. Listing his predecessor’s vast academic credentials and leadership posts, he said of Tan Sri Raj, “That’s the shadow he casts!”
Prof Wong called him a “grand salesman” who used his persuasive skills on Gerakan, Dato’ Seri Stephen Yeap and the Ministry of Higher Education to bring about the establishment of the University.
“Uncle Raj, WOU wouldn’t be where it is today without your leadership and contribution,” he quipped, announcing that the WOU Council recently approved the award of Emeritus Professor upon Prof Dhanarajan.
He described him as a “natural, silent leader”, “great planner, communication expert” and that “his interpersonal skills are legendary”.
“Raj is a crusader, not a preacher. As a person, you’ll find him to be very patient, fatherly, soft-spoken, but above all, from my own experience, he’s a caring and true friend,” he said.
Prof Wong pointed out that just like the words on the backdrop tribute banner, “As one chapter closes, another begins for you”, Prof Dhanarajan would be moving to the 11th floor of the Albukhary Building to assume his new job responsibilities.
Prof Dhanarajan takes on the new role as Director of WOU’s Institute of Research and Innovation on an honorary basis, and will head WOU’s Centre for Teaching and Learning, which has received an international funding of RM600, 000 for the first two years. He will still be a member of the University Council, and has been appointed by WEF to serve as ‘advisor’ for both WOU and Disted College.
Meanwhile in his farewell address as Vice Chancellor, he said that his childhood experience of walking miles and taking a bus to go to school somehow influenced his “genetic make-up” to take teaching to the people.
His advice to staff: “If you have commitment and intuition to serve, and put rewards aside for the time being, you’ll find that everything comes to you. You’ve got to serve in order to reap. And without working for reward, for me it has paid enormous dividends.”
As for the new chapter of his life, he borrowed the allegory of the green movement of recycling as opposed to discarding to say in jest that he’s “being recycled”.
On his time as WOU Vice Chancellor, he shared, “I enjoyed the fun of assembling good people like yourselves and working with old friends. It’s a great, wonderful life – you’re the icing on a very mature fruitcake.”
Prof Wong later handed a ‘Down Memory Lane’ album to Prof Dhanarajan which he thoroughly loved; it was a compilation of photos, pictures, and news clippings of his personal and professional life.
At the close, WOU’s Staff Recreational Club president Dr Andy Liew led everyone in toasting ‘yam seng’ to Prof Dhanarajan and the “new man at the helm”, Prof Wong.
Many thanks to School of Foundation and Liberal Studies (SFLC) lecturer Jasmine Emmanuel who acted as emcee, and to everyone who paid tribute to Prof Dhanarajan by penning down a few lines of appreciation in the guestbook and through their attendance.