Datuk Dr de Vries–A Pioneer in Physical Education

June 29, 2014

Datuk Dr de Vries–A Pioneer in Physical Education

by Terence Netto@www.malaymailonline.com

It’s just as well Datuk Dr Leonard Andrew de Vries does not know when he’s beaten. From the time of the Japanese Occupation when his father died in prison, Lenny, as he is fondly referred to by friends and even detractors alike, has had to make the best of circumstances which he faced.

LennyDr.De Vries holding a photograph of fellow STTI graduates from the class of 1962 taken  in 2002.

It’s rather like the opening batsman’s role he played in his cricketing days of youth. You have to face any ball that’s pitched to you, on any wicket your captain elects to play, even if the weather conditions happen to be unfavourable. You ask no quarter, and though your convictions prompt you — away from the field of play — to render others more than a few, you are unfazed when these go unrequited.

To be sure, circumstances have not always been adverse in Lenny’s life as it played out over the past 76 years. True, the death of his father, Roy, in wartime must have been traumatic to him, his mother and siblings. But with Uncle Cyril and Aunty Gladys deputising, Lenny did not lack for filial succour.

Just as war clouds were gathering over East Asia as the 1940s dawned, Lenny’s dad, Roy de Vries, was made a captain in the Volunteer Corps, a uniformed unit composed of locals and trained by British colonials to help in the defence of the country against a threatened Japanese invasion. After the Japanese had arrived and subjugated the country, an informer let the new overlords know of Roy’s prewar affiliations which resulted in Lenny’s father being imprisoned. Death followed soon after. His mother, too, sickened and died a short time thereafter.

Perhaps that was Lenny’s initial lesson in making the best of what life offers at any one time. When the daily journey from where he stayed with his guardians in Alor Gajah to school at the St. Francis Institution in Malacca became too dangerous in the early 1950s because of intermittent attacks by communist terrorists in the ongoing Emergency, Lenny was packed off to Perth for his secondary schooling.

After that, he was off to Brinsford Lodge in Britain for teacher training, followed by postings to schools in Negri Sembilan before arriving at Victoria Institution in Kuala Lumpur in 1965, when that school was in what came to be regarded as the height of its fame as a spawning ground for students out to excel in academics and in sport.

Under redoubtable headmaster V. Murugesu, the school set standards rivals sought to emulate. Lenny was in charge of the students’ hostel and of physical education. Murugesu demanded and got the best, with Lenny, already primed from attending a seminal PE course at the Specialist Teacher Training Institute (STTI) in Cheras in 1962 under the tutelage of the legendary Datuk Teoh Teik Lee, to give as if it were off the meat of his cricket bat.

“That course virtually began the era of awareness of how physical education and fitness could play its vital role in the preparation of not only our top performers in sport but also ordinary citizens that they may keep minimum standards of fitness,” recalled Lenny in Penang, where he resides.

As an index of its importance, the ceremonial opening of the course was officiated by then Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein. Course participants would go on to become a who’s who of renowned coaches in their respective fields — Mohamed Noh Che Noh, Peter Lee Guan Chye, C. Ramanathan, M.P. Haridas, and Lionel Rajamoney.

“In those days, the best coaches were all from the teaching profession,” Lenny need hardly have emphasised, considering the professions of the abovementioned quintet.

Lenny made special mention of Teoh Teck Lee, who was in charge of physical education in the ministry of education. “It was he who gave impetus to physical education in this country. He set up an association devoted to it in 1962,” said Lenny.

Lenny became president of the association in the early 1980s, by which time the concept of physical education became more holistic so that the national body’s name had to reflect the idea’s expansiveness. It is was now called the Malaysian Association of Physical Education, Sports Science and Fitness.

The wider ambit was partly a reflection of what has transpired in Lenny’s career. Friendship with Sam Edwards, an American Peace Corps volunteer teaching chemistry in Victoria Institution in the mid-1960s, saw Lenny apply for tertiary qualifications in America, culminating in his gaining a doctorate — the first by a Malaysian — in physical education at Columbia University in New York in 1975.

The fledgling Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang financed the final year of his studies for a doctorate at Columbia so that they could get him to join their faculty of education which Lenny did upon completion of his studies.

North America would prove to be a happy hunting ground for Lenny for while on sabbatical at the University of Ottawa in 1980, he witnessed the success of a programme called ‘Participation’. This programme grew out of an initiative mooted by then Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who was embarrassed by an observation made by England’s Prince Phillip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II. While on a visit to Canada in the late 1970s, Philip, infamous for verbal indiscretions, observed that Canadians were “fat” and flabby. Using television and other media, Trudeau launched a programme to get Canadians to trim the fat.

Lenny was impressed by the success of the Canadian programme. When then Sports Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak tapped him in 1988 to formulate a plan to counter secessionist tendencies in Sarawak and Sabah, Lenny came up with a scheme modelled on the ‘Participation’ venture in Canada. The programme was called ‘Malaysia Bergerak Bersama’. According to Lenny, the programme succeeded to abating the secessionist tendencies which was then welling up in the Borneo states.

“I think this was where Datuk Seri Najib Razak got his 1Malaysia idea when he took office as PM,” suggested Lenny, now an indomitable septuagenarian who five years ago overcame pancreatic cancer. Fortune favours the ever striving such that de Vries, at a weather beaten 76 years, is ready for another innings in a life where even half chances are taken like they are the full thing.

Source Article from http://dinmerican.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/datuk-dr-de-vries-a-pioneer-in-physical-education/
Datuk Dr de Vries–A Pioneer in Physical Education
Japanese Education – Yahoo News Search Results
Japanese Education – Yahoo News Search Results

Leave a Reply