Friday, July 31, 2009

To Sir With Love

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

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 loc
ated 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 .

aster Vincent was asked to address those gathered and as he spoke, it was all ears like obedient students!

Master Vincent was v
ery 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!



Anonymous said...

Thank you Tony for the very flattering comments. Thank you Datuk Pardip for bringing everybody together. Most of all I would like to thank all my dear fellow Johannians and former students for the wonderful get together last night. It will remain an everlasting moment etched in my brain. It was so nice to see all of you once again albeit looking entirely different with expanded girths and receding foreheads. Till we meet again, good luck and God Bless all of you and your families.
Vincent Fernandez.

rizal hashim said...

Tony I met master Vincent during the rivalry games recently but have yet to find time to post a story on him. will do soon. Yes we no longer produce teachers like master Vincent. Our proud tradition and heritage were strictly maintained mainly due to the presence of teachers like vincent...not too long ago, mr phua was honoured with the teacher of the year award, again he spent the bulk of his career at sji...

cheer, cheer and courage display...

Pardip said...

Wow. What a nostalgic evening that was. And as for Master Vincent, he is of a different breed. I think there are just a handful of such teachers existing. What a great inspiration to be in his midst and share his years as a teacher.

I asked Master Vincent that evening how old he was in 1975 and he replied 33. It truly amazed me because I have not seen him loose his temper even as a young many in his thirties. He had to deal with thousands of students and sportsmen who can drive anyone up the wall, BUT Master Vincent, I never once seen him loose his temper.

What am amazing personality.


Anonymous said...

indeed a good read, Tony. yes, teachers were the go-to people all those years ago, especially in small towns like the one i grew up in. such dedicated people.

i am wondering if you could help me out, tony. whose is the david crosby lookalike in the last picture (standing, second from right).

Lester Tan

tony mariadass said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
tony mariadass said...

Dear Lester Tan,
I suppose you are referring to the one with the long hair. He is Bala - former colleague in the Malay Mail. Still involved in media work. He played for the school in 1974/75. He is just spotting this look. Probably, what cannot grow on top, he decided to grow in length! Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Dear Tony, I am Cikgu Ruby, currently a teacher@SJI. I wld like to seek yr permission to share yr article of Mr. Vincent's to be published @

For yr info, Mr.Vincent had just been operated to remove a 6kg tumor in his body. U can find me- Cikgu Ruby @ FB
Thanks. Tuesday 6/3/2012

tony mariadass said...

By all means please use it. Thanks. And here's hoping that Master Vincent will have a speedy recovery.

zorro said...

Tony, he gave all he could give and God wanted him this evening. I put up a blog posting linking to this post of yours. Thanks.

Gurdev (rajinder.s brother) said...

It's a sad day. Having spent 11 year's at St. John's I never met St John but I did meet St. Vincent !! Thank you Sir for the wonderful memories.