The WOU family reminisced, revealed unknown gems and toasted the hard-working, meticulous and polite nature of the founding registrar in a farewell tea party at the main campus.
R. Padmanathan, or Paddy as he is better known, was honoured for his contribution to the university during a light-hearted retirement party organised by the Human Resources Department. Many paid tribute to Paddy’s work ethics and respect of fellow men, and implored staff to emulate his precise and persistent approach in carrying out his duties, and his demeanour towards people.
The one-hour gathering kicked off with Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Wong Tat Meng recollecting his first meeting with Paddy, then deputy registrar of Universiti Sains Malaysia, when he joined as a fresh graduate in December, 1972.
He said Paddy left USM for DISTED College, then Allianze University College of Medical Sciences, before becoming the first registrar of WOU, adding “He has taken the setting up of universities to a fine art.” Paddy has spent the last 48 years working in Penang, six of which was in the civil service, after his spell in Kuala Lumpur.
Prof Wong announced that the University Council has decided to honour Paddy’s contributions to WOU and academia by conferring an Honorary Master of Administration degree during the convocation in November.
Registrar Yeong Sik Kheong was curious of what the ‘R’ stands for, gamely stating that it must be for ‘reverent’ due to him being highly regarded by Registry, and thankful to have Paddy’s guidance for another three months.
Deputy Vice Chancellor (Strategy, Planning & Continuing Education) U K Menon first met Paddy during the merger between Stamford and DISTED 10 years ago. “He is a soft-spoken, kind gentleman who doesn’t show rancour, exhibit anger, or use harsh words. That’s a mark of a true gentleman, whose life is worth emulating. Another part is his wonderful relationship with his family.” His last remark that Paddy has one grandson who is “a spitting image of him, one hundred percent”, evoked bursts of laughter.
Meanwhile QA Manager Dr Andy Liew also had the floor in stitches as he proceeded to stir everyone’s imagination by weaving an intriguing story, albeit innocent, of them sharing a bed. In a more serious note, he added, “He has been my mentor for the past 11, 12 years. He has moulded me to become a workaholic. He taught us to be meticulous in our work and to be kind to people.”
Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) Prof Dato’ Dr Ho Sinn Chye met Paddy when he joined USM in early 1973. “One thing I admire about Paddy is that he is a cool person, very methodical. His minute-taking was excellent and precise.”
SELC dean Prof Dr Mogana Dhamotharan described Paddy as a special breed of gentleman, soft-spoken, a friend, ever helpful, and an asset. SST dean Prof Dr Tham Choy Yoong, who had Paddy’s father as his English teacher in Kampar, brought the hall down when he stated, tongue-in-cheek, “He looks exactly like his father.” He also revealed the ‘secret’ to the prefix ‘R’ to Paddy’s name; it stands for Ramalingam.
Deputy Registrar Sovindar declared that Paddy has mellowed in the last 10 years from the very strict person when they met 30 years ago in USM. “I have learnt from him there are no shortcuts to working. And that when you write minutes, make sure the person not there reading it will have the whole sequence of events as to what happened in the meeting.”
Paddy, 72, who joined WOU on August 1st, 2005, expressed sadness in moving away from a known and familiar environment and from friends. He has come to regard WOU as his second home, and thanked his wife, Teresa Liaw - whom he’s known since 1965 while she was pursuing tertiary studies, before marrying in 1969 – for being his pillar of strength as he focused on work. Paddy described his 9-year-old grandson as “the jewel of my eye” and perhaps the reason why he has mellowed somewhat.
Prof Wong presented a pewter gift to Paddy, after which the staff, about 70, feasted on murtabak, mee hoon, and other delicacies.