By Mr. Aw Taik Moh (C54)
I graduated from the University of Rangoon with a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering in March 1954. The few years I spent at the University of Rangoon, particularly at Engineering, were one of the happiest and most rewarding times of my life.
The BOC College of Engineering was actually the School of Engineering in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. It was funded by BOC (British Oil Company). It was then understandably heavily mechanically and electrically oriented. In my first two years, about half of the faculty members were Britons and the Dean of the Engineering Faculty was Professor Davies. We had very excellent lecturers who were of diverse ethnic background – Indians, Chinese and Burmese – but they and us the students were all Burmese citizens. I spent four years at Civil Engineering (CE). We the civil engineering students were required to take some basic mechanical and electrical courses and workshops also, while the mechanical and electrical students were not required to take any civil engineering courses. Since these courses were mandated or compulsory for civil engineering students, I could not avoid them. I did pass those subjects but not very proud of it because they were not my major interests.
Professor Davies and all the Britons left Rangoon around 1950. U Ba Hli took over the engineering faculty as Dean. To his credit, U Ba Hli ran the school very professionally. He recommended and managed to get many of his students and graduates to go abroad for graduate studies. These student-graduates of his came back to Myanmar with master’s degrees and doctorates from England and USA to teach under his deanship. U Ba Hli also initiated an education exchange program with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA) during the period beginning, I think, in 1951 and ending in 1954. The program brought 3 to 4 civil, mechanical and electrical professors from MIT to Rangoon University. The R.U. Engineering Faculty made a very impressive and quick progress in its worldwide reputation and was duly recognized and accredited internationally. I am proud to say that we Burmese students, including myself, did exceedingly well at the foreign universities in England and the U.S. This shows that, given the opportunity and the tools, we the Burmese students were as good, if not better than, as any other in the world. I went to MIT for graduate studies, came back to Myanmar with a Master’s degree in 1957 and served the Myanmar government in the National Housing and Town and Country Development Board for a number of years. Many of my fellow students from R.U. Engineering went to and graduated from MIT, Harvard, Cornell, Michigan, UCLA, Columbia and other big-name American universities.
In my first year at RU Engineering I stayed at Prome Hall for a semester. The Prome Hall Football (soccer) Team was the best, the champion team of all the university teams all the time, winning the university championship trophy for years in a row. You know, we the engineering students were very close; we were like a family. We never thought of ourselves as Burmese, Indians or Chinese. We loved each other, helped each other, and took care of each other like brothers (there were no female students in engineering during my time). In fact, all engineering students were very united as one family. Our classes at that time had only 12 to 14 students each. Even the professors treated us like they were our older brothers, but of course we addressed them as Sayas with deep respect. As far as I can recall, no one from my class or any other class failed in any subjects or to graduate from RU. I learned a lot from RU Engineering and enjoyed every courses, including the Surveying Class in a summer. I must confess that although we appreciated the Geology course at the Geology Department, which was located like miles away from the Engineering school, this was the least liked by my entire class of students and we all scored a “C” or “C-” at best. The geology professor didn’t like us either because we were usually late arriving for his class lectures. But we couldn’t help being late, considering the distance we had to walk or bike from Engineering to the Geology Department. I hope for the present engineering students, some arrangement could be made for a geology professor to walk or bike from his department to Engineering, instead of having so many students getting late to his class. Although I wouldn’t consider myself as a top-notch or extremely bright student, somehow even with a “C” for geology, to my and my fellow students’ great astonishment I was placed second in my final year exams.
I fondly remember the little Indian restaurant by Prome Hall where I and my many friends used to have lunch, paratas and keema paratas. I also enjoyed boating at the Inya Lake when we occasionally skipped classes.