When Doriasamy Kumara Samy Pillai came to us from Malaya to enter the University in 1917, affection and convenience soon named him Samy, and it is as Dr Samy that he has been known to Hong Kong ever since he graduated in 1922. A prophetic choice it has proved to be for the Cantonese "sam mai" can be taken to include his three beautiful daughters.
Dr Samy’s university career is an example of the rare combination of athletic and mental prowess. Excellent in every field of sport, he was our champion athlete in 1920 and 1921, and his fleetness of foot once served him well after a football match in Canton, for the opposing Lingnan team resented losing and gave chase. On graduation, he was awarded a Rockefeller scholarship for a year’s study overseas, and in 1928 he obtained his MD degree. He served for ten years on the staff of the University’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and much of the phenomenal development of this department, and of the clinical training to both students and nurses at the old Tsan Yuk Hospital, was due to his unbounded energy and professional ability. This was recognised by the University when, at the end of this period, in 1935 and 1936, he was appointed acting Professor, being one of our first graduates to occupy such a position.
He has practiced obstetrics and gynaecology for nearly forty years in Hong Kong, and the number of residents whom he has greeted upon entry into the world runs in to several thousands. In two or three years’ time, in the normal course of events, there will be several families in which he will be taking delivery of the third generation.
The loyalty and active support which Dr Samy has given to the University has been outstanding. It was Dr Samy, for example, who, on his own initiative, and with helpers recruited by himself, prevented looters wrecking the Queen Mary Hospital and its University clinical departments in 1945. Later, in the early fifties, when the tide was running against us, he again proved a true friend, and his influence as President of the Alumni Association from 1953 to 1958 was of inestimable value. It is loyalty of this kind, and faith in the aims of the University and what it stands for, that he has shown as a member of the University Council since 1953, and no doubt Your Excellency was influenced by these considerations in renewing his appointment as Councillor for a further three years in 1958, thus extending his membership to eight years in all.
It is ironical to record that Dr Samy, and his contemporary Dr Osman, both of whom we are honouring today, came very near to being sent down during their undergraduate days. Since it is a story which redounds to their honour, it is appropriate to recall it here. As Captain of Lugard Hall, Mr Samy, as he was in 1919, approached the Warden with the request that a portrait of Lord Lugard be acquired to hang in the hostel. A very large portrait was eventually received from England, but to the dismay of those in Lugard, the Registrar directed that it be hung in the Great Hall instead. For men of spirit and enterprise such as Messrs. Samy and Osman, this was a challenge for action. Armed with poles, and assisted by others from Lugard, they kidnapped the Founder’s portrait and duly installed it in its rightful place. Ultimatums for its return were sent and rejected; the men of Lugard stood firm, and finally won the day.
Your Excellency, for Dr Samy the relationship of an alumnus to his alma mater is literally that of a foster-child to his bounteous mother, and he his fully aware that this is life-long and reciprocal. Mother, now fifty, has known him since she was six, and is proud to see him honoured today.
Citation written and delivered by Professor D Barker, MA, DPhil, the Public Orator of the University.