Susan George Pulimood:
A woman worth emulating
The Pulimood memorial oration is held annually in July to commemorate
the life and work of Mrs. Susan George Pulimood, our beloved principal.
This oration is a tribute to a gracious lady, who was not only our
beloved principal but also a scientist, a botanist, an educationist, an
administrator and above all, a human being par excellence.
She was born July 23, 1907 and passed away in 1987, aged 80 years.
She was eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. K. C. Joshua and belonged to the
oldest Syrian Christian community of India. She graduated from Queen
Mary College and obtained the MA in Botany from President's College in
India. In 1941 Mrs. Pulimood came to Sri Lanka and joined
VisakhaVidyalaya as teacher in charge in the Bandarawela branch. For
four years she taught English literature, mathematics and botany. In
1946 she was appointed as the principal of Visakha Vidyalaya.
Susan George Pulimood
Since the inspection of Visakha Vidyalaya by the great philanthropist
Mrs. Jeremius Dias in 1917 to date, Mrs. Pulimood has been the longest
serving principal from 1947 to 1967 and grew into a legend at Visakha.
Mrs. Pulimood guided the destiny of Visakha during the 'golden days'
when she graduated from grade B to a super grade school to become the
premier institute of learning for Buddhist girls in Sri Lanka. She was
an eminent educationist and botanist who first introduced science
education to Visakha in 1946. She overcame numerous difficulties and
much scientism at that time, but was ably supported by N. E.
Weerasooriya, Chairman Board of Trustees in her efforts. She induced
science graduates from India to teach at Visakha and firmly established
the science stream. The countless Visakhians in various fields of
science are a tribute to her pioneering efforts.
In the 1960s there were tremendous changes at Visakha. Firstly
Visakha transformed for board management to state management. This was
followed by the Sinhala only official language policy. Suddenly every
task had to be done in Sinhala. However, no problem was insurmountable
to Mrs. Pulimood as she faced these challenges with courage and
determination. She strode forward and with her strode Visakha. I
remember Mrs. Pulimood's maiden speech in Sinhala given at the sports
meet in 1961. It was most interesting and astounded us all, the chief
Mrs. Pulimood had 3 special loves - children, books and flowers. The
over 3000 students and 125 teachers were a part of her ever expanding
Visakhian family. She imparted her love for books via the Gitanjali
Amarasooriya memorial library which was the best among school libraries
at that time. She was a renowned botanist and was co-author of the
"Textbook of Botany", which was the standard book in botany at that
time. Her love for flowers was depicted by the flowers and foliage grown
in the quadrangle near the principal's office.
Mrs. Pulimood created an academic environment at Visakha, but always
stressed the importance of extra-curricular activities in character
molding. Sports, drama, guiding, debating, music and literary activities
were encouraged to give us an all-round education at Visakha. Mrs.
Pulimood was an eloquent speaker and held the audience spellbound when
she spoke with emotion at the opening of the Jeremius Dias memorial
hall, a much cherished dream, when it finally became a reality in 1983.
Sadly, this was her last visit to Visakha before she passed away in
1987. It was Mrs. Pulimood, the indefatigable worker who initiated the
funds to build this edifice, by organizing the swarna jayanthi
celebrations at the former race course in Colombo for one week 1967.
All of us who have been privileged to be Visakhians have been touched
by her dedication to the cause of knowledge and selfless service to
Visakha for the better part of her life. Mrs. Pulimood's once she said
in lighter vein - "Fly by Night claimed he married a Visakhian, but I
married Visakha Vidyalaya!"
Pannaya Parisujjathi - by wisdom is one cleansed.
Long live Visakha Vidyalaya!
-Dr. Anula Wijesundere (nee Samaranayaka)