Teaching is a noble profession and students always remember their teachers no matter what.
There is a rare breed of teachers, who not only impart knowledge within the four walls of the classroom, but also on the field.
But such teachers are a dying breed. (Read this story) Teachers these days rather give tuition and earn extra money or spend time with their family than be under the sun with no monetary rewards.
But these sports teachers will tell you that the experience they gained and special moments on the field are priceless.
And one teacher who is close to the hearts of hundreds of thousands of Johannians is Master Vincent Fernandez. Besides being a Physical Education teacher and the sports secretary of the school, he also coached the St. John's Institution hockey team.
Master Vincent is a true 'green' Johannian, having studied in the school from 1949 to 1957 and returned to the school to start his teaching career in 1963 and retired in 1997.
Master Vincent also has been doing sports commentary with Radio 4 (now Traxx FM) since 1963. He started with four minutes of sports roundup between 9.25pm and 9.30pm daily, before a longer time slot was dedicated to sports through Arena Sukan.
He is also one of the founding members of the Sunday Sports Talk on Traxx FM.
The 63-year-old Master Vincent is married to Puan Hajjah Zabedah, a St. John's teacher too (who taught me Bahasa Malaysia when I was in Form Three ), and has three sons and a daughter.
Two of the more famous siblings are JJ -- (HITZ FM DJ) and Zabrina (winner of Amazing Race Asia). His two other sons are Mohd Joshua and Nor Zacky.
Last night, Datuk Pardip Kumar Kukreja took the initiative to organise a Fellowship and Dinner with Master Vincent at his office in Jalan Ampang.
Pardip (eighth from right) was a member of the 1975 victorious hockey team which won the Selangor State Under-18 title for the second consecutive year defeating Royal Military College (RMC).
Pardip invited hockey players of 1973 to 1976 and students who were closely associated with Master Vincent (left).
I was not a hockey player, but a soccer player with the U-18 team in 1975 which won the Selangor Schools title too (coached by another rare breed of teacher, Mr Kirubakaran Rokk) and Pardip invited me to join them on this special occasion.
Master Vincent was my form teacher in Form Three, taught me English and PE and was the PE teacher for the next two years. And I continued to see Master Vincent all these years through our work as we covered many sporting events together.
There was a group of 20 Johannians present at Pardip's office, which was strategically located and facing our Alma Mater. He had in fact built a balcony for his office on the 11th floor, which gives a bird's eye view of SJI. (Notice SJI in the background. Pardip [second from left] catching up with his hockey mates on the balcony)
That was the first thing everyone noticed when they walked into Pardip's office and commented that he was "still going to school every morning when he comes to office."
When Master Vincent walked into the room, there were hugs and firm handshakes for the "Sir".
Pardip even had a slide presentation prepared with photographs of the hockey teams, players in action and the famous class photographs.
Many had difficulties identifying faces on the slides, but a closer look saw them rattling off names as they reminisced the good old times.(Below - Vincent catching up with Master Joachim as the rest watch the presentation)
Then it was time for catching up as Master Vincent moved around the room meeting every individual.
A sumptuous dinner was also served and as we tucked in, we continued to catch up .
Master Vincent was asked to address those gathered and as he spoke, it was all ears like obedient students!
Master Vincent was very touched by the gesture but the pleasure was all ours for having had a great teacher like him, in the classroom and on the field.
"Seeing all of you here and having successfully made a career for yourselves is my proudest moment. You have all touched me deeply," said Master Vincent.
But everyone returned the compliment when they said in unison: "You made us what we are today, Sir!"
And as he ended his speech, everyone broke out singing He is a jolly good fellow followed by the school rally and When the Saints go marching in...
A souvenir was presented to Master Vincent in the form of a scroll by Zahriman Suleiman, a member of the 1974 team. It included a well-remembered quote he used on the Team of 74 -- "If this team does not win the title... I'll burn my hockey stick and give up coaching." Master Vincent was merely expressing his confidence that the team would deliver -- which they did, defeating RMC.
It was indeed a nostalgic night for all of us and we all went home promising that this will not be the last.
To Master Vincent, we salute you and we are indeed blessed to have crossed your path. Until we meet again soon Master Vincent, thank you for having joined us last night as we went down memory lane. Thank you again Sir!