“An alumni association of some kind is an essential complement of every school or college. The name given it matters little. The aim evidently ought to be to aid its members in living up to the ideals taught them by their Alma Mater and to second her efforts in the great work which she had in hand, the fitting of her pupils so to discharge the duties of their calling in this transitory life as to prepare themselves for a greater life beyond.” – Brother Marcian Cullen
The Old Michaelians Association dates back to the Directorship of Brother Dositheus. On 8 September 1933, a meeting was held with Mr PJ Morsingh (the first principal of SMI) as chairman to form an old boy association. The first committee was elected, with Brother Dositheus as president and Mr Tan Boon Kwee as secretary and treasurer. OMA members paid 50 cents per month while the students who wished to join the OMA paid 25 cents per month.
The first Reunion Dinner was held on 3 March 1934 with over 100 old boys attending.
The shed beside the Mosque was set aside for its activities, and old boys were encouraged to come there in the evenings for games and fellowship. This clubhouse included, among its conveniences, a billiard table and a library. Gambling was prohibited and therefore the only revenue was from the monthly subscription paid by the members. It continued to function right up to 1941 when access to its clubhouse was no longer possible.
In the rush of the post‑war years, Old Michaelians were very noticeable in assisting the school get back on its feet and later in helping to fund the costly extensions and equipment.
There was certain hesitancy to revive the OMA due to high cost of building and furnishing the clubhouse, which had been destroyed by the Japanese. To rebuild the OMA premises and furnish it would cost about $2,500 to $3,000. Another minimum $100 to $150 was necessary for employing a club attendant and meeting other incidental charges. As this amount was too large, the idea of owning a clubhouse was shelved. Its Vice President, Mr Ho Kik Yew donated $100 to $200 annually to enable it to show a solvent position. Another difficulty experienced was the reluctance of younger generation in coming forward to shoulder responsibilities. Therefore, more or less the same committee members were re-elected year after year. Just the same, Mr Lip Seng Onn, who had been so active in its early days, tried more than once to restart the OMA but without success.
A meeting was convened on 31 July 1955 and a protem committee was appointed to draft a constitution. A further meeting took place on 4 September 1955 and the following were elected to serve on the Committee: Dr Lip Seng Chiew (President), Dr ME Tiruchelvam, Mr Yeoh Chin Hin and Mr Lee Swee Lum (Vice‑Presidents), Mr Lam Theng Pew (Honorary Secretary), Mr Khoo Kok Hean (Honorary Treasurer), Mr Cheah Cheong Sin (Sports Secretary), Mr Khaw Chye Hock (Social Secretary), with the following as committee members: Mr Yeoh Ah Seng, Mr Tan Boon Kwee, Mr Lim Kean Hooi, Mr Tan Cheng Phor, Mr Cheah Phee Phay and Mr EL Spykerman.
In view of attracting past students from other Brothers’ schools, particularly from St George’s Institution, Taiping and from St Anthony’s School, Teluk Intan, the new body was called The Lasallians’ Association.
After some years with a change of leadership, the bond with the school became increasingly tenuous, and by the early 1970’s, many asked for the revival of the OMA as a rallying point for those wishing to be identified specifically with SMI. In 1973 and 1974, the school hosted a banquet for Old Michaelians in the school hall. By 1975, a committee of Old Michaelians headed by Tan Sri Dato’ Lee Loy Seng was formed to plan succeeding reunions. Later the post of president passed to Dato’ KK Lim who took immediate steps to have a Constitution drawn up and a Certificate of Registration was issued to OMA on 6 July 1979. OMA sponsored the repainting of the school building in 1983 and the Jubilee Lottery in 1987.
Mr Lim Keng Hoo succeeded as president in 1990. It was OMA’s turn, during his presidency, to hold the annual Congress of Old Lasallians’ Associations and he played a major role in the preparations that contributed to the Congress’ successful outcome. In December 1993, Dato’ KK Lim, as the President of the Old Lasallians Association, hosted the Congress held at Casuarina Hotel, Ipoh. YB Dato’ Seri Lim Keng Yaik gave the keynote address while nationally famous Mr Patrick Teoh was Master of Ceremony. The highlight of the Congress was the public forum on the theme “Lasallians & Vision 2020.” The panel was chaired by Tan Sri Dato’ Chan Choong Tak and the panellists were three eminent Lasallians: Tan Sri Dato’ Lin See-Yan, Deputy Governor, Bank Negara, Tan Sri Dato’ Haji (Dr) Ani b Arope, Chairman, Tenaga Nasional Malaysia and Professor Paul Chang, Director, Human and Education Development Centre, Petaling Jaya. In the afternoon was the Lasallian Golf Tournament and the Congress closed in the evening with a grand banquet.
Mr Adrian Tsen Keng Yam took over the presidency in 1995 and remained until today. During the Annual Banquet of the same year, “Our Story”, the story of SMI through the years compiled by Mr Harneak Singh on behalf of OMA, was presented. Under Mr Adrian Tsen’s leadership, OMA became more active in the years that followed. His efforts were recognized when SMI Alumni Klang Valley voting him as the “Most Caring Michaelian of the Year” in April 2005.
From 1995 onwards, support for SMI’s annual stage production, financially and through direct involvement, became a focus of OMA. The proceeds from the annual stage production became a source of funds for a series of school improvements in the years to come.
Several notable events were a grand dinner held at Casuarina Hotel to mark Brother U Paul’s Diamond Jubilee (1937-1997) as a La Salle Brother, OMA celebrating a momentous and joyous Diamond Jubilee in 1998, and SMI celebrating its 90th Anniversary and 150 years of Lasallian education in Malaysia in 2002. To mark the new millennium, a cultural night was staged by the Michaelian Chinese Orchestra at the Dewan Bandaran Ipoh on 17 March. Mr Adrian Tsen hosted the event and traced the history and achievements of the Orchestra from 10 members in 1967 to its current 100-strong.
OMA worked closely with the school over the recent years, sponsoring various projects, such as the repainting of the school and installation of air-conditioning in the School Hall (much to the delight of everyone) in 1996, a comprehensive upgrade of the school’s front field in 1997, construction of a covered walkway – a longstanding need – from the main building to the front entrance in 1998, covering the road from the entrance up to the parlour with pavement tiles and upgrading of the school canteen to a food court in 1999, covering the greater part of the roadway within the school’s compound with pavement tiles in 2000, and construction of a new deluxe 5-star block of toilets in 2004. In 2001, a new much appreciated facility for school activities built at the end of the front field was opened and named the “Adrian Tsen Pavilion” in his honour for his contributions to OMA and SMI.
The repainting of the school was decided while Mr KH Lim was president and vigorously pursued in early 1996. Floodlights were mounted at the same time and are switched on for public festivals and major school functions. Donations from Mr Adrian Tsen and Dato’ Seri Lee Oi Hian made possible the covering the road with pavement tiles. Part of the funds for the new block of toilets were donated by the Tsen family – Adrian and Jannie each donated RM10,000 and Connie RM1,000. Mr Soong Teck Onn of Sea Cera Tiles Bhd donated tiles and Datuk Aru Suppiah of Johnson Suisse donated fittings, thanks to Mr Adrian Tsen’s intervention.
Brother Matthew Bay played important roles in several of the projects, such as overseeing the repainting of the school, taking charge of the upgrade of the school canteen, and designing and supervising the construction of the new block of toilets.
Students, teachers, parents, friends and Old Michaelians were deeply saddened and mourned the death of Brother U Paul on 18 April 2000. OMA’s tribute proclaimed Brother Paul’s inspiration to thousands of young Michaelians to find their place in life as worthy and responsible citizens and his gentle style and unselfish dedication that left their mark on the Michaelian spirit. OMA sponsored a granite headstone as a mark of appreciation to his memory.
In 2001, SMI was hit with a major crisis when city authorities proposed to relocate the school. The OMA President, together with Board of Governors Chairman, Dato’ Seri Lee Oi Hian, and SMI’s principal at that time, Mr Louis Rozario Doss, met with the authorities and successfully averted the crisis.
Another crisis hit in 2005, this time on the SMI primary schools that had collapsing ceilings due to termite damage. OMA responded swiftly and makeshift repairs were carried out pending the construction of a new building. Brother U Paul Memorial, a RM3.5 million 4-storey primary school building to replace the dilapidated single storey complex put up in 1959, is currently underway. The project is undertaken by the Board of Governors under Dato’ Seri Lee and assisted by OMA. Mr Adrian Tsen chairs the Funding Committee.
The Annual Banquet is usually held on the last Saturday of September in Ipoh. This is the high point of the year for Old Michaelians to gather in numbers from far and near to renew acquaintances and share fond memories.
OMA’s call is for Michaelians to stay in touch and keep up the spirit and values of SMI. Contributors are welcomed to send news and articles to a quarterly newsletter, which OMA publishes, called “The Michaelian Spirit.
– Written by Brother Vincent Corkery, 2006.
– Special thanks to Mr. Peter Khiew, Michaelian Heritage Gallery.