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Recollection of my RIT days

Amateur Historian

Despite my imperfect memory, I have morphed into an Oral and Written Historian of my alma mater with the help of sayas, sayamas, and alums. They shared their walks down memory lane and precious rare photos to be incorporated in the “RIT Alumni International Newsletter Updates” (1999 – present). Thanks.

Class of 69 is unique

Our “Class of 69” is unique in the following sense.

  • We took the last ever 7th Std (Government examination) in 1960.
  • We took the first ever 9th Std — High School Final (Only) Examination — in March 1962. Except for English, we had to answer all subjects in Burmese. Under the tight security imposed by the 17-man Revolutionary Council, we completed the examination.
  • To our surprise and dismay, the HSF examination for Rangoon Division was annulled. I had [already] given my text books. We had to re-take the HSF examination around August 1962.
  • We took the first ever 10th Std — Matriculation (only) Examination — in May 1963. 1263 students from Rangoon Division passed. Dr. Khin Maung U (Roll Number 2263, SPHS) stood first in the whole of Burma. He was followed by Dr. Min Oo (Maths, SPHS, 2nd), Dr. Myo San (Freddie, SPHS, 3rd, GBNF), Dr. Nyunt Wai (Victor, SPHS, 4th), Dr. Thein Wai (SPHS, 5th), Kenny Wong (MEHS, M 69, 6th). I was seventh. SPHS had five in the Top Five, seven in the Top Ten, and ten in the Top Twenty. We were awarded “Collegiate Scholarship” for 75 Kyats a month.
  • The “then new” education system wanted us to spend one more year in school before attending the university.
  • Is it our fate or destiny to serve as guinea pigs of the Educators?
  • We attended the last ever I. Sc.(A) classes held at “Leik Khone” on Prome Road. It was initially used by the Faculty of Engineering before it moved to the Gyogone Campus.
  • Four of us — Myint Soe (Willie), Maung Maung Kyi, Kyaw Wynn, and I — joined RUBC. Our crew was Runner-up in the Senior Novices and we earned our Full Greens at the end of the season. Due to security reasons (following the Anniversary protests of 7th July), the Annual Regatta was cancelled, but Sithu U Tin (President, RUBC) decided to hold the Dinner gathering for the 40th Anniversary. The Souvenir Magazine was compiled by Sithu U Tin, U Po Zon, and U Tin Htoon (A 60, RUBC Captain & Gold).
  • We took the last ever I. Sc.(A) examination at the designated high schools.
  • Most of Rangoon University (except Medical and Engineering Colleges) were suspended following the fateful anniversary celebration of “7th July and the demolition of the historic Rangoon University Students’ Union”.
  • Thus, those who were one year senior to us in High School graduated 2.5 years ahead of us.
  • Before the universities reopened, scholarship bids (mostly to Soviet Union and East Bloc nations) were opened to students who are 18+ years old. Fortunately or unfortunately, I did not qualify. Two of my crew mates Maung Maung Kyi and Kyaw Wynn applied for scholarship to study Engineering at GDR (German Democratic Republic, East Germany).
  • The then new “University Education System” replaced the “old” model of Rangoon University with several Faculties — Arts, Science, Social Science, Engineering, Medicine, and Law.
  • The system created institutes such as Rangoon Institute of Technology, Institute of Medicine, Institute of Economics, and Institute of Education.
  • RASU (Rangoon Arts and Science University) and MASU (Manadalay Arts and Science University) were the core left from the old Rangoon University and Mandalay University.
  • In November 1964, three batches of students were admitted to the first ever 1st B.E., 2nd B.E., and 3rd B.E. (formerly 1st year Engineering) classes.
  • Ma Than Yi (Maubin Ma Shwe Than, EP 70) has blogged about her reminiscences of 1st B.E.
  • Ko Zaw Min Nawaday (EP 70) and Ko Ohn Khine (M 70) have described the academic and extra-curricular activities for ’64 to ’70.
  • The list of 400+ students who entered 1st BE has been compiled by Ko Ohn Khine and team. Some notable alums from that class have also been portrayed in their Golden Jubilee Magazine published in November, 2014.
  • The list of 300+ students who entered 2nd BE has been compiled by Ko Aung Min (M 69) and team. The Class of 69 had major reunions for the 30th Anniversary (in 1999), 40th Anniversary (in 2009), and SPZP-2012, the psuedo Golden Jubilee (for the admission to RIT) in 2014. The true Golden Jubilee (for the graduation) and SPZP is scheduled for December, 2019. It is sad to note that 88 members from the class are GBNF.
  • There is no known list of 200+ students who entered 3rd BE.
  • The authorities decided to “merge” the exam results of the Intermediate Colleges in Rangoon (and Lower Burma) with those in Mandalay (and Upper Burma) and then admit them to 2nd B.E. in order of merit. I was named at the top of the list followed by Dr. Taing Oke and Ko Kenny Wong.
  • I was selected Luyechun (Outstanding Student) along with Ko Sein Shwe (4th BE), Ko Zaw Min (1st BE), and Ma Khin Than Myint Tin (Margaret, 2nd BE, RIT selected in track and Field). In the summer of 1965, we attended the Inlay Khaung Daing Camp with Luyechuns from other universities and institutes, and high school (9th and 10th standards).
  • Several high school Luyechuns (e.g. Ma Pwint Than, Dr. Uttam Singh Gill, Bogyoke Win Myint) joined RIT two years later.
  • We had to make somewhat difficult decisions. Civil and Mechanical were the top choices. Many of them joined RIT faculty after graduation.
  • 60+ students (led by Ko Thein Swe [Luyechun for 3rd BE], Ko Khin Maung Win, Ko Aung Kyaw Pe, Ko Tun Aung Gyaw, Ko Toung, …) chose to major in Electrical. We were joined by some seniors. Some of them took sabbatical or were hit by the infamous 75% attendance rule, or by the strict moderation (failing a minor subject even though the average was 2.5+)
  • We then had to make another (tough) decision. The ratio of EP (Electrical Power) to EC (Electrical Communication) was 3:1. The rationale was that EP had a reasonably good market with EPC being the chief absorber of EP graduates. EC had a limited market with PTC, BBS, DCA, and MOC (later MOGE).
  • Many top students such as Ko Thein Swe, Ko Khin Maung Win and Ko Aung Kyaw Pecho se to major in EP. After graduation, most joined EPC and other corporations.
  • 11 or so students such as Dr. Tun Aung Gyaw and Ko Toung chose to major in EC. Ma Tin Tin (Ann), the lone female EE student chose EC. Ko Than Lwin (Henry) joined the faculty. Some worked for DCA, MOC and Schlumberger. A couple migrated to the US.
  • At one of the Burma Research Conferences, Saya U Soe Paing presented a paper on digital computers, logic, … Sayagyi Dr. Chit Swe requested Saya U Soe Paing to help him with a project (later known as “UCC Project” to be funded by UNDP and executed by UNESCO).
  • For several years, Saya U Soe Paing requested top EC students to join his project. The proposal, vetting, and approval of UNDP projects take considerable time.
  • When the project was finally approved by UNDP, UCC was established at Thamaing College Campus. Sayagyi Dr. Chit Swe became the founder/director. Saya U Soe Paing, Saya U Myo Min, and Saya U Ko Ko Lay (GBNF), became the co-founders and Managers. After volunteering for a considerable time, Dr. Tun Aung Gyaw and I formally joined UCC as the first batch of employees.
  • For details, read “Computer Ah Sa UCC Ga” by Saya U Soe Paing, my interview with Mandalay Gazette (published in Southern California) and my series of articles “Memories of UCC”.

Activities

  • In my Newsletter Updates, I mentioned some of my extra-curricular activities.
  • I served as Class Representative, Magazine Committee member, Joint Secretary and Secretary of RIT Electrical Association.
  • I served as the last ever elected Treasurer and as Vice Captain of Rangoon University Boat Club. Due to the changes in policy, I did not become the Captain (as originally stipulated by RUBC rules). The higher authorities decided to install a committee of sayas to oversee the club.
  • As a member of the RIT Rowing team, I attended the “Appreciation” Ceremony by the RIT Sports Council, then chaired by Saya U Maung Maung Than. We applauded the accomplishments of multi-sports athletes such as Ko Aung Khin (M 67), Ko Sai Maung Maung Htwe (classmate and sports mate of Ko Zaw Min at St. Albert’s), Ko Khin Maung Lay (Henry, T 68), … and Inter Institute Champions (e.g. Soccer, Chinlon, Badminton, Table Tennis, and Weight lifting).
  • I served as EC and editor for RIT English Association. I participated in a debate along with Ko Myo Tun (Bobby, now Upazin at Pa Auk Taw Ya), and Ko Khin Maung Win (Roland Thein). Our team lost to the juniors led by Ahmed Soorma. I received “Rhyming Dictionary” as a prize. I gave my dictionary to my mentor Ashin Ananda (Reverend F. Lutvig, Poet Laureate).
  • I was a founding member of RIT Chess Association along with the accomplished players like Ko Aung Than, Ko Maung Maung, Ko Thet Lwin (Henry, younger brother of Saya U Thein Lwin), and some visiting Soviet lecturers (who specialize in “Quick” Chess).
  • I also joined Universities’ Training Corps (UTC) for a while before the schedule conflicts with rowing.
  • Sai Kyaw Aye (who worked part-time for BBS) invited us for a session of “Auld Lang Syne” in Shan.
  • I wrote short notes for “Hset Hmu Thadin Zin” and articles for “Hlyat Sit Sar Saung” and “RIT English Bulletin”.
  • In July 1969, I wrote a poem “Men on the Moon” to honor the Apollo 11 mission. It appeared in the Guardian daily newspaper. A copy was sent by USIS to NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration).
  • In December 1969, Daw Khin Swe Hla asked me to translate a short story “Nge Thay Loe” by Sayagyi U Thu Kha for publishing as the Sunday Supplement for WPD (Working People’s Daily). My translation “Still So Young” earned me 50 kyats. Sayagyi U Thu Ka was given an honorarium of 50 kyats. Those were the days when 1 US dollar was valued between 5 and 6 kyats.
  • In my Newsletter Updates, I mentioned about my dreams — to get the sayas and alums reconnected electronically and physically, and to repay the metta and cetana of my mentors. Saya U Soe Paing was a driving force, and Ko Khin Maung Zaw worked long weekends to set up http://www.ex-rit.org
  • I was a saya at UCC and attended the 5th Arcariya Pu Zaw Pwe of ICST and UCSY.
  • I am not a saya at RIT. I was not eligible for the world wide SPZPs.
  • I was deeply moved when Saya U Moe Aung visited Ko Tin Aung Win’s house after SPZP-2007 and accompanied us to the air port. Before SPZP-2012, Saya U Moe Aung gave me two vintage RIT Annual Magazines (from his private collection) and other “gifts”. Ko Ko (Set Hmu) took us to his office and over lunch seconded the idea of Saya and several alumni such as Ko Myint Pe and Ko Wynn Htain Oo to set up a foundation to help engineers — past, present, and future.
  • Saya Dr. Soe Thein (C75), web master and videographer of SPZP-2007, invited me to the Civil Reunion and SPZP. He invited me over to the C75 gathering and mini-SPZP before SPZP-2012.
  • I had communicated with Ko Wynn Htain Oo (M72) in Facebook, but the M72 group (WHO, Ko Myint Pe, …) invited me to join the M72 gathering and mini-SPZP. The event was solemn, because Ko Khin Maung Toe had passed away. The “Thamudaya Kyaung” DVD is among my souvenirs.
  • Smiles from my mentors, and “random acts of kindness” help me burn midnight oil and keep on going the extra mile.
  • I would like to end by paying tribute to the countless sayas, sayamas, and alums who have kept the RIT Spirit alive and well.

Tribute

The following provide different perspectives of our beloved alma mater.

  • RIT Annual Magazines
    Chief Editors include Sayagyi Dr. Aung Gyi, Saya U Aung Hla Tun and Saya U Moe Aung.
    Publishers include U Hla and Saya U Thet Lwin.
    Limited edition of 23 (or so) RIT Annual Magazines was reprinted for SPZP-2012
  • Discipline-wide magazines such as “Hlat Sit Sar Saung” [published by the RIT Electrical Engineering Association with Saya U Moe Aung as Chief Editor and Publisher]
  • Weekly “Hset Hmu Thadin Zin” [founded by Ko Win Thein (M 67) and associates]
  • An alum couple archived 6+ years worth of Hset Hmu Thadin Zin
  • “Cartoon Box” [founded by Ko Myint Pe (M 72) with the patronage of Saya U Khin Maung Phone Ko (“Phone Ko”, C 65, cartoonist for Kye Mon newspaper and several magazines) and Saya U Aung Myint (Pet 69, creator of “Kyant Ba Hone”]
  • Ko Myint Pe and team compiled cartoons from Cartoon Box, Hset Hmu Thadin Zin, RIT Annual Magazines, … for the commemorative issue of “RIT Cartoons” for SPZP-2012. Three (or so) generations of Cartoon Box authors set up a booth at SPZP-2012 and autographed books (for sale).
  • Ko Myint Pe has uploaded “RIT Cartoons” (despite the slow and unpredictable Internet connections) to the RIT-related Facebook Pages.
  • History of University Engineering Education in Burma/Myanmar [by Saya U Aung Hla Tun and team]
    Sayagyi U Ba Than, Saya U Thaw Kaung (Chief Librarian, Rangoon University Central Library), and Saya U Soe Paing (EE, UCC) provided historical photos and documents
  • The companion CD was compiled by Ko Hla Min (EC 69) and Ko Ohn Khine (M 70)
  • RIT web sites (http://www.ex-rit.org [designed by Ko Khin Maung Zaw] and http://www.rit-alumni.info [designed by Ko Wunna Ko Ko]
  • Commemorative web pages for SPZP-2000 include 64 “Count down to the Reunion” and 36 “Post-Reunion” articles
  • The early “RIT Alumni International Newsletter Updates” [by Ko Hla Min (EC 69)] can be found in http://www.ex-rit.org
  • Subsequent “RIT Alumni International Newsletter Updates” [by Ko Hla Min (EC 69)] can be found in http://www.rit-alumni.info
  • RIT-related Facebook Pages [created and/or maintained by Saya U Moe Aung, Saya U Kyaw Sein (M 65), Ma Than Yi (EP 70), Ko Ohn Khine (M 70) Ko Saw Lin (C 71), Ko Myint Pe (M 72), Ko Wynn Htain Oo (M 72), and Ko Khin Maung Lwin (M 87)
  • Commemorative issue of “RIT Alumni International Newsletter” for SPZP-2000″ [edited by Ko Hla Min (EC 69) and team]
  • Commemorative issues of “Swel Daw Yeik Sar Saung” for SPZP-2002, SPZP-2007 & SPZP-2010 [edited and published by Saya U Moe Aung and team]
  • Commemorative issue of “Swel Daw Yeik Magazine” for SPZP-2012 and SPZP-2016
  • “Shwe YaDu Magazine” [edited by Ko Khin Maung Lay (M 70) and team] published in conjunction with the Acariya Pu Zaw Pwe of the combined 1st BE intake of ’64 and ’65
  • “Thamudaya Kyaung (Parts One and Two)” DVD
    Based on the poem by nationally acclaimed writer Maung Sein Win (Padeegone)
    Rendered by nationally acclaimed musician Ko Khin Maung Toe (GBNF)
  • Swel Daw Yeik Ah Nyeint
    According to Saya U Moe Aung, the term “Swel Daw Yeik” became an official synonym for RIT, its predecessors and successors at the Rangoon University Golden Jubilee celebrations in 1970. Ko Myint Pe (“Seik Kyee”) was one of the Lu Shwin Daws at the event.
  • Gee Ta See Sar (Musical evening)
    Ko Kyaw Oo (pianist), Ko Yu Swan (Don min), Sayama “Emma” Tin Tin Myint, Ko Kyaw Htin (“Chee Hte Nu Nu Kyaw”), Ko La Min, … are some of the performers at the early Gee Ta See Sar’s
  • Saya U Moe Aung, Saya U Thet Lwin, Saya U Saw Tun (“Saw Lu”), and Saya Dr. Taing Oke (“Maung Yin Maung”) are some of the “Zat Saya” and/or composers.
  • Saya U Thet Lwin’s compositions include “Mya Kyun Nyo Nyo Kun Yeik Kho” (granted a “Dat Pyar” by Burma Broadcasting Service). The song has been sung at the various RIT-related gatherings such as Singapore Thingyan and world-wide SPZPs.

History

To paraphrase the Curator of Smithsonian Museum,
“There is no unique history. It is not uncommon to have parallel competing and often contradictory histories of an event.”

Feel free to revise my recollections of my RIT days and my contributions as an informal historian.

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