Victorian of the Year 2007
he Victorian of the Year for 2007 is a true blue who has lived a life of service for his community without reserve, and in doing so left a legacy of things which still live on today. Many of those contributions to his alma mater, the Victoria Institution.
He was born in Galle, Ceylon, on January 5, 1912. At a very tender age, he and his two older siblings, followed their father to Malaya, after the passing of their mother. His father, Sundram worked in the rubber industry in Malaya, as a Superintendent and so he was raised primarily by his elder sister Grace, whom he referred to fondly as “Acca”.
His early education was in the ACS Klang and the High School, Kajang, after which he moved to the VI . He left the VI after completing his Senior Cambridge in 1929.
While in school he was a prefect and was very active in cricket, having the honor of captaining the school side. His cricketing contemporaries at the VI included the late K. K. Pillai, the great Lal Singh and Bahaudin.
Robert’s loyalty was best demonstrated in his working life. He actually had only one employer throughout his working life, Barlow Brothers & Co. (later known as Barlow Bousteads) for a total of 36 years. Coincidentally one of the estates he managed was the Wardieburn Estate in Ulu Klang, where his father had spent time as a Superintendent. He retired after a grand innings as the Administration Manager of this estate agency.
Robert bucked the trend by joining a private establishment, when all his peers generally joined the Civil Service for tenure of employment.
As a Ceylon Tamil, with a good job, he was expected to marry a good Tamil girl from the home country village of Urela in Jaffna. However, here, too, he bucked the trend and, in 1945, married Miss Katherine Alves, who is with us here tonight.
Cricket was Robert’s first love - an affair that started as a schoolboy - that endured till his twilight years. After leaving school, he joined the TPCA (the Tamilians Physical and Cultural Association) as an ordinary member and played cricket for the TPCA, honing his skills in the game as an off-spinner and middle order batsman. He went on to eventually play for the state of Selangor. His greatest contribution to the game was in the administration and development of the game in Malaysia. He was the President of the Selangor Cricket Association for many years and the Vice President of the Malaysian Cricket Association. While in these positions he played a key role in developing the youth/future Malaysian cricketers.
Apart from administrating the game of cricket, he was also involved in the committees of the Selangor Amateur Athletics Association (AAA) and the Malaysian AAA. He organised many athletic meets and personally took part in the operations of the events. He was chef-de-mission of the 1991 Manila SEA Games and Director of SUKOM between the years of 1993 and 1998.
He has three children - Professor Datuk Shaharil, David Dzulkifli and Cecilia Dauth - all of whom, he ensured went to the VI. The boys, of course, played cricket for the VI and David went on to play for Selangor as well.
Robert was a true Tamilian at heart. He was the President of the TPCA for many years and was part of the organisation that developed the first sports stadium in the country in Jalan Raja Muda (previously known as Princess Road). The TPCA stadium was like a “honey pot” to budding Malaysian sportsmen of all races and many National players were groomed at that location. As a Tamilian, he also worked tirelessly to improve the lives of the Malaysian Tamils. He was on the Board of Management of the SOORA Cooperative Society that got into property development and other commercial ventures, benefiting the Tamils. The great Malaysian Tamil, Sir Clough Thuraisingam worked closely with Robert on many of these ventures.
He somehow always maintained his ties with the old school. As a very active member and President of the OBA, which he was for several years, he was involved in fund-raising for several causes, namely, for the various scholarship funds and the VIOBA Foundation and for the existing club-house building fund. He helped launch a novel way to raise funds for the building development, namely, the pledge of support that was in the form of “buying bricks” for the club house development fund.
Robert served on the Board of Governors of the Victoria Institution for many years in the 60’s and 70’s as a parent representative and as a representative of the VIOBA.
His many contributions at this forum, took the VI to greater heights.
Robert had close affiliation with his church, the St Mary’s Anglican Church, which is located next to the Selangor Club padang in KL. He served on several church committees, mainly fund-raising ones and was also part of many missions that went overseas to visit other diocese for exchange of ideas, for the betterment of the church community.
In his later years, Robert was deeply involved in work with senior citizens. He worked this passionately on several fronts at the same time, even though he was already in his eighties, namely, via the church, the YMCA and local community organisations. He also got involved with youth work and was particularly active as an advisor of the Juvenile Court, where his vast experience with youth paid off for the wayward youth.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Victorian of the Year for this year, the man many called Mr VIOBA for a long time, receives this honour posthumously: father, husband, cricketer, sports administrator, VIOBA past-president, then social activist, Malaysia’s sports ambassador, and equally an old boy, Mr. Robert Sundram.
With acknowledgments to the VIOBA
Last update on 29 February 2008.