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, botanist, educationist, administrator and above all, a human being par excellence.
She was born on July 23, 1907 and passed away in 1987, aged 80 years. She was the eldest daughter of Mr. & 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 Visakha Vidyalaya as teacher-in-Charge of the Bandarawela branch. For four years, she taught English literature, mathematics and botany. In 1946, she was appointed as the principal of Visakha Vidyalaya.
Since the inception of Visakha Vidyalaya by the great philanthropist Mrs. Jeremius Dias in 1917, 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 Mr. 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 guest included!
Mrs. Pulimood had THREE special loves – children, books and flowers. 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