- Saya graduated with Electrical Engineering in 1958.
- Received two Gold Medals.
- Joined the faculty as Assistant Lecturer in 1958.
- Received MSEE from the University of Michigan.
- Upon his return to Burma, he joined UBARI (which had provided him the States Scholarship).
- Transferred to the Electrical Inspectorate.
- Taught part-time at EE Department.
- Migrated to the US.
- Co-founder and President, BEA
- Served as President of TBSA (Theravada Buddhist Society of America). When Sayama Dr. Julie Han (Past VP & fund raiser of TBSA) passed away, Saya donated $2000 to TBSA in her memory.
- Attended the First RIT Grand Reunion and SPZP. He have to leave early because his spouse was not feeling well. She passed away after several years of ill health.
- Wrote articles for RIT Alumni International Newsletter
- Saya passed away a few years back.
- His only son, Dr. Barry Paw (MD, PhD, outstanding researcher), passed away at the tender age of 55. He suffered a heart attack on the plan on the way back from Australia to the US.
- Brother : Tun Thein (A67)
- Nephew : Hla Thein (Robert, M72)
Article (RIT Alumni International Newsletter)
Intermediate of Science
The year was 1952, the year you started your first year intermediate (pre-engineering) at Rangoon University. On hindsight I could probably say, those were the young and restless years. Those early years, there was some student political uprising at Rangoon University. I was gassed while staying at the dormitory at Pinya Hall. A week later it was calm and peaceful. Nevertheless, years went by very peacefully. To the upstart, like me, all we knew was to get good grade and some day become a scientist like Albert Einstein. The interest in science was so great that I set my goal to be a great physicist. So with my mind set to become a scientist, I tried very hard to get good grade. Subject in science were all taught by science Lecturers from India. These were the days when Burmese Lecturer in Science was a rare commodity. The only Burmese teaching Mathematics was Saya U Ba Toke. His Upper Burman ascent was so pronounced and unique it was and is giving a ringing sound to my ears even to this days. Well, my assumption was if I get a couple of distinctions in science subjects, I could probably register for an Honor class in Physics and then proceed on to get a PhD degree at some foreign University. So two years past by very easily by keeping my interest in Science. My dream was all shattered when I register to start my honor class in Physics, I was the only one registered for the class. Loneliness overwhelmed me then, and I went on to join my friends for the first year engineering at BOC College. They say BOC college was a desolate place to be for young man.
My First Year Class (1954) (BOC)
It was like hell to start the first year engineering. The day started with the first year black smith course. Lifting a ten-pound hammer was some effort, needless to say pounding the ten-pound hammer at the heated iron rod. The same day, I thought I have made the biggest mistake in my life starting on engineering course. In the back of my mind, I thought of changing back to Physics Honor Course. My physique was not much of a type to do any blue collar work like black smith. However, my family encouraged me to be an engineer, like some our family friends, like U Kyaw Myint who eventually became a railway commissioner. Again, with some kind and friendly persuasions from friends I stick on with the Engineering School. Some Burmese Saya’s that came to my mind were Saya’s U Num Kok, U Eng Hock (Cl. 1955) and U Kyaw Tun. Well, I passed my first year very smoothly with distinction on all subjects. Courses for all first year students were common to all disciplines. U Kyaw Tun was teaching Electro technology and the rest of the courses were by Sayas from East and West Bengal, India. These were the years when picking up Bengali accent English was considered perfect King’s English. The differential calculus was taught by Dr. Sircar and the projectile solution took several pages; and the advanced algebra was taught by Saya U Ba Toke and Saya U Ko Ko Lay.
My Second Year Class (1954) (BOC)
My second year course was a little heavier and all my concentration was in my study hoping that some day I could pickup a scholarship to study in foreign University. Those days, to study in foreign University was just an impossible dream to my country folks, so I was prevented from applying for a state scholarship. There were a few Colombo-Plan lecturers from New Zealand and England teaching engineering courses, so I elected to major in Electrical Engineering. Textbooks from McMillan and Longman publishers were easy to obtain, then. A little while later, I witnessed the first wave of Burmese Scholar came back (U Sein Hlaing , U Tin Swe and U Ba Than) to replace some Bengali’s Saya’s. There after, another wave of scholars arrived to take up their respective staff positions (U Aung Gyi, U Min Wun, U Khin Aung Kyi). The inspiration to study abroad was so great then, that it pushed me to concentrate on my study with high hope that I may be fortunate to be on the staff of Dean U Ba Hli. So I passed my second year very smoothly with distinction on all subjects.
My Third Year Class (1956) (Leik Khone)
So I passed halfway mark and started my third year course. We started at the new facility Leik Khone constructed under Colombo plan. The lecturers Mr. Neale, MIEE and U Kyaw Tun, AMIEE , Mr Redpath, AMIMech.E and U Ba Than teaching styles were very much oriented to British style. I did admired their logical teaching method; unlike U Sein Hlaing who taught us Communication theory, Dr. Freddy Ba Hli who taught us Vacuum tube circuit theory and U Tin Swe who taught us the Symmetrical Component theory for solving three-phase circuit theory. The third year passed by with mostly academically courses oriented for graduate school, with the exception of electro technology taught by Mr. Neale. Well, I passed my third year with distinction on all subjects. These were the years when we still use the K&E slide rules to solve problems in class and in examinations. Still, if I were to design a small building wiring, then, I could have selected a wire size very much non-code wire sides.
My Fourth Year Class (1957) (Leik Khone)
To me even in my final year, my goal was to proceed on for further study in foreign University. Even though we were in the final year, we never knew that there existed a Burmese National Electrical Code of Practice, equivalent to National Electric Code (NEC in USA). With majority of my class mate concentrating on getting a position in one of the many government departments, my concentration of the academic study become much easier and so I passed my final year with distinction on all subjects. Well, I do not want to be a Wun Dauk Min, anyway. Well, I picked up two gold medals on completion of my final year. Todarmal Talwal Gold Medal and J.A Hills Gold Medal. Well, these medals were all subsidized by my family. The Registrar U Yu Khin sent me a notice that if I should elect to receive a real gold medal, I should submit Kyats 150 for each of these medals, since the price of gold had risen higher than when the cash endowments were made. So my family pitched in Kyats 300 for me to receive the two Gold Medals from Chancellor Bogyoke Ne Win. This achievement honor bought me an invitation from the President Bogyoke Ne Win to attend the presidential dinner party at President Palace. Very soon after, I joined the staff of Dean U Ba Hli. The years of young and restless thus ended.
My First Year as Teaching Staff (1958-1959)
Among the graduating classmates Ko Ba Nyunt (Burmah Oil Company) and myself joined the staff of Dean U Ba Hli. Soon there after there were some political wind blowing in the horizon from the staff. The uprising started among the staff was on the subject of setting the criteria for promotion to the lecturer ship at the college of engineering. As an upstart staff member I was also involved in the meeting at Shwedagon Pagoda to scheme up an engineering staff strike. The personal matter was the subject of contention, then. Some how it was resolved peacefully thus avoiding a strike. I was much happier when I picked up a scholarship for further study in USA. It might just be due to Dean U Ba Hli’s letter of recommendation or my academic achievement in obtaining two gold medals and a straight A grade average that bought me a scholarship to do my further study in USA. So I left Rangoon in 1959 for USA to study at University of Michigan.
Years as an Engineer
The year was 1958, I was a young Assistant Lecturer at the Engineering Faculty. Electro-technology Laboratory course was assigned to my colleague U Ba Nyunt and myself. Well, those days, student don’t think much of newly minted young graduate: there were some instances where some students even wrote nasty comments when their Laboratory Reports were not graded at the level they expected. Well, they say, maturity takes years to culture, but in my mind I thought I was not good enough to be their instructor, so these happened. Like a young maturing child, I will take up the issues with Saya Gyi U Ba Hli, who will reprimand the subject students. A few months into the faculty we are to find ourselves to apply for foreign scholarship. To my disappointment there were no scholarships allotted for the engineering college. I went to see Saya Gyi and presented my deep interest to continue serving in the Department. That year, there was no budget provision to staff up the college. As fate would have it, I took the scholarship allotted for UBARI.
Preparation for Foreign Study in 1958
My student year life at BOC College was more of a bookworm. Yes, I did achieved what I aimed for, but I was behind in my social aspect. So my Mum said, now that you have graduated and is leaving for foreign land, I need to fix you up for good to ensure that you would be back at home after your study in USA. Here in Rangoon, I soon found myself betrothed to my present wife. Yes, where is my dream to reach out for the top notch Ph.D degree, I asked myself ? With this marriage knot tied to me, my mind was to get my first graduate Engineering degree and return home. Since I was not to continue with the academic career at the University, my graduate degree would not buy me a good position at the Government Departments. So this was my fate and there was my disappointment in life.
Years at Graduate School in University of Michigan
My Mum had good intention in starting up my matrimonial career; but did hamper all my drive to go further to completing a Ph.D degree. Although, I could achieve the highest honor in my bachelor years, I found myself not so brilliant in doing my graduate study. Nevertheless, I managed to complete my Master Degree in June of 1960 and returned home to work at UBARI.
Years at UBARI
In 1960, I started work at UBARI. I was not doing much engineering, then. So I thought I could do some real engineering work. After three years at UBARI, I moved to work for the Department of Electrical Inspectorate in Secretariat, Rangoon.
Years at Electrical Inspectorate
This department governed the “The Electrical Rules and Regulation“ of Burma. I found Testing and inspecting electrical construction projects to be very challenging. I traveled far into remote areas across entire Burma. I was privileged to be assigned to give a taste of Electricity Rules and Regulations of Burma to the senior year electrical class at RIT. Bringing the graduating year class to get a taste of “National Electric Code“ was a great honor even as a part-time staff faculty member. In 1967, my outlook in life started to change so dramatically.
In some way, the work is a challenge. You do a lot of testing and calibration of protective relays and commissioning of small and large power station. You also do a lot of facility industrial facility commissioning. In addition, you are also chasing electrocution incidents all over Burma.
My Fond Memory of the Reunion Dinner and SPZP
The Reunion of ex-RIT graduates and Associates on October 28, 2000 is in everyone eye’s a success at the premier level. It would have been a mission impossible for me to organize a reunion meeting like this in the early eighties. The success of RIT Alumni International was due mainly to engineers who contributed their hard work in the most unselfish way: nobody in the organizing committee cared about who gets the credit for the event’s success. To put the entire success in the right perspective, I can attribute the success to the three pillars on which it stands on:
1. The prosperity achieved by Burmese engineers in the early ninety eighties and nineties
2. The unselfish diligent and hard work from the volunteers and the members of the organizing committee
3. The ease and convenience of communication in the new millennium
In the late ninety sixties when I first landed in this new world, we have very few RIT Alumni who have left their homeland to make their right livelihood (samma-ajiva) in the new world. Most emigrants from Burma left with their Certificate of Identity. Very few numbers hold the Burmese Passport. We have no relatives here to guide us nor do we have the opportunity to tailor and write our resume for employment. Even though some have had US education, lack of work experience in the US was a factor in getting compatible engineering positions. The second drawback we faced was we left Burma flying the Pan Am plane with fare paid for on credit basis. Some friends had to advance the plane fare to enable us to leave Mingaladon Airport. Most Burmese families had to start with a couple of thousand dollars credit hung on their neck to begin their livelihood here. A lot of us tend to look for job opportunities in the civil service arena for stability and security. Most of us started at entry level at around $750 per month for graduate engineer in civil service. It was no rare occurrence to witness some of us having to change to a second career as a restaurant owner from a successful Architectural career in Rangoon. Living under this environment, with not much money to throw around for extra curriculum activities, to organize the kind of Reunion event then was unimaginable.
Things changed gradually after a few years, with hard work and the diligent endowed in each and every one of the first wave of immigrants things have changed. There were new opportunities in the engineering employment to build power plants, industrial and refinery plants that required a large number of engineering job opportunities. From the early eighties people brought in relatives, the second wave of immigrants from Burma. We built up strength from unity and the community spirit grew. The economic growth brought forth the abundance to do charities in the Burmese communities all across the United States. From one single Taungpulu monastery in Boulder Creek we saw almost two to three monasteries in one city to serve the Burmese communities. The baby boomers who came in as babies in the early seventies have grown up to serve the communities as professionals: engineers, doctors, lawyers and some entrepreneurs. In the group of engineers at the reunion we can find a good number of millionaires working to become multi-millionaires. Some us even owned their own companies employing twenty or thirty ex-RIT engineers. Time has changed from Rag to Riches. We can now afford to enjoy life from our hard earned investment. We no longer have to calculate in the back of mind the currency exchange rate on whatever we touch to buy for our daily staples. It reminded me of an instance when we took a new comer to a Bush-Garden on one weekend. The entrance fees was three dollars per person and when we continued on to another Universal Studio, he said that he would rather sit at the entrance and wait for us than spend another $3.00 on entrance fee. That was then, and this is now: US $50.00 per head to a reunion party would be an insurmountable hurdle for a new comer. Still we saw a few new comers at the event, because their resident relatives were rich enough to give them tickets [as gifts] to attend the event.
We even have ex-RIT graduates who were benevolent enough to sponsor a few of their Sayas from outside the US to attend the event. The enabling factor here is the economic wealth of our fellow graduates. So the Rags were then and the Wealth is now: things have changed.
Most of us have inherited our Buddhist heritage: take for instance Mr. Maurice Chee’s e-mail address: alluding his belief on the “Triple-Gems” the Buddhist three jewels: Buddha, Dhamma and Samgha. Believing in Metta (loving kindness), Karuna (compassion), Mudita (sympathetic joy), Upekkha (balanced mind). These are the kind of people who run the Reunion operation: no one seeks fame and fortune and let alone grabbing credit for the success. In my several dealings with them, like Maurice, Ko Hla Min and K.M. Zaw are all alike: they would always end their e-mail with “With Metta”. The word Metta after all is not a small unit of measurement its true meaning can only be described in combination of two words in English – “Loving Kindness” — and is a very Pure thought. With such people running the show success is boundless. The web page: < http://www.ex-rit.org/rit.asp > is indeed the guiding beacon of Success for the Reunion. K.M.Zaw and Ko Hla Min should each be proud of this success.
One deterrent or restraint in organizing people from far places is communication. In the early seventies and early eighties, you give up before you start to write because the process of communication takes so much hassle: you write, you print, you paste the stamp, you mail the envelope and wait for confirmation after a week. That was then. In the current setting, you e-mail the letter and if willing, you get the answer in an instant. Some of us are more or less holding the mouse five to six hours a day and the e-mail call out “You’ve got mail”. This is now. The ease of communication is indeed a great help, thanks for the help that brought the great success to our reunion. I would like to thank Saya U Aung Khin who gave the go-ahead signal of convening a reunion in the Bay Area and also brought in all the big celebrities like Sayagyi U Ba Toke, Sayagyi U Aung Gyi, and Sayagyi U Khin Aung Kyi. Their support and their attendance had made a big difference and greater success. Last but not the least, the credit goes to the organizing committee members for their inexhaustible hard work and Metta to their Sayas and their fellow graduates. I wish each and every one of our Sayas named in here “Saya Pu Zaw Pwe” should contribute an article to express their appreciation. My good wishes also goes to the Organizing Leadership of the coming event in 2002 in Singapore. Regards and Metta, Sabbe Satta Bhavantu Sukhitatha ! ! !
May All be Well and Happy.