Tribute to Tan Sri Raj: A passionate educationist

Wawasan Open University paid tribute to the immeasurable service of Tan Sri Emeritus Prof Dr Gajaraj Dhanarajan – who retired as Chairman of the Board of Governors – with an appreciation dinner held at the E&O Hotel in Penang today.

WOU Registrar Dr Andy Liew, up front as emcee, welcomes everyone to the appreciation dinner.

WOU Registrar Dr Andy Liew, up front as emcee, welcomes everyone to the appreciation dinner.

Vice Chancellor Prof Dato’ Dr Ho Sinn Chye in his opening remarks highlighted the extraordinary qualities and accomplishments of Tan Sri Raj, his mentor. “He often reminds us of the need to uphold and put into practice the core values of the University at all times,” Prof Ho stressed. WOU Sdn Bhd Chairman Dato’ Seri Stephen Yeap shared on Tan Sri Raj’s involvement in the development and growth of WOU.

Dato' Seri Stephen hugs Tan Sri Raj after delivering his speech.

Dato' Seri Stephen hugs Tan Sri Raj after delivering his speech.

WOU Pro-Chancellor Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon echoed the sentiments of Prof Ho and Dato’ Seri Stephen, and lauded Tan Sri Raj as “one of the greatest educators of the world”. He said after heading the Commonwealth of Learning in Vancouver, Tan Sri Raj could have gone on to bigger things, like UNESCO or the World Bank, and yet chose little Penang to realise his vision and passion in ‘education for all’ in Malaysia through WOU’s open distance learning (ODL) mode.

Dr Koh looks to the past and to the future of the University.

Dr Koh looks to the past and to the future of the University.

Dr Koh also recounted the origin of WOU when Gerakan’s third president, the late Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik, committed himself and the party in 1999 to the establishment of an open virtual university for the working adults of Malaysia. He said, the appointment of Raj as the founding Vice Chancellor was most appropriate as he was able to assemble a global team of “who’s who in ODL” as advisors to contribute to the formulation of WOU’s strategy and action plan. As the new chairman of the Board of Governors, Dr Koh appealed to all in WOU “to continue with the vision and values of our founding fathers”.

Tan Sri Raj took to the podium to express his passion for equitable access to “the denied and the deprived” through his involvement in WOU, and that by being affordable and equitable, WOU can keep faith with its mission and vision.

Tan Sri Raj shares that he likes to speak his mind on issues that he feels strongly about rather than compromise on his principles.

Tan Sri Raj shares that he likes to speak his mind on issues that he feels strongly about rather than compromise on his principles.

He said his passion for equity stemmed from growing up in a rubber plantation of the 40s and the 50s where “denial to learning kept an entire population in servitude and blindness”. “If you lived through that experience, then you will know where my passion is coming from.”

Explaining “The rest of this talk may turn out to be like the winner of an Oscar”, he thanked individuals in the Board and management, and also his wife Sue of 47 years. He singled out Tun Lim and Dato’ Seri Chia Kwang Chye, the then secretary general of Gerakan, who worked tirelessly to make WOU happen.

Tan Sri Raj earlier welcoming Dato' Seri Chia, whom he singled out for special recognition along with the late Tun LIm, for their role in establishing WOU.

Tan Sri Raj earlier welcoming Dato' Seri Chia, whom he singled out for special recognition along with the late Tun LIm, for their role in establishing WOU.

Acknowledging he could be blunt when driving a principle or value, he concluded, “My passion was the University and I would do everything I need to do to make sure that this University serves its purpose to the people of this country.”

A 24 carat gold-plated elephant gift imported from Kerala for Tan Sri Raj from WOU to add to his massive collection of elephants. At left is Prof Ho while looking on at right is Dato' Seri Stephen.

A 24 carat gold-plated elephant gift imported from Kerala for Tan Sri Raj from WOU to add to his massive collection of elephants. At left is Prof Ho while looking on at right is Dato' Seri Stephen.

Among those present were national Gerakan vice president Datuk Dr Asharuddin Ahmad, and the directors and/or members of Wawasan Education Foundation, WOU Board of Governors and WOUSB as well as senior academics and management staff of WOU.