The business of a school is to produce not only good boys, but more especially, good Old Boys.Editorial, 1954 Lasallite
Founded in 1939, the Old Boys’ Association of La Salle College has been offering service to the Old Boys’ community as well as supporting the school and her students for some 80 years. The objectives of the Association are to foster and promote closer union and confraternity among its members, and to encourage and cultivate in them a loyal and generous heart towards their Alma Mater. In the autumn of 1938, six years into the opening of the College, some Old Boys, especially those of the Matriculation Class of 1938, considered the time ripe for the formation of the Old Boys’ Association of the College. They approached the Principal Brother Aimar, who offered his unreserved support and blessing. Further he appointed Brother Gerfried Hastreiter to assist the provisional committee.
Preparations went ahead in earnest, and several months later, a meeting of former pupils was called. It was reported on 26th June 1939 in the Hongkong Daily Press. The article read:
- “La Salle O.B.A. to be Formed”
- “About 150 former pupils of La Salle College, Kowloon, attended a meeting at the College yesterday evening.”
- “The meeting, presided over by the Headmaster, the Rev. Bro. Aimar, unanimously resolved to form such a body. All past pupils will be circularised and invited to join, and a meeting will be called at a later date to frame the constitution, elect officers and discuss future activities.”
On 21st July 1939, the same paper reported on the progress:
LA SALLE O.B.A. HOLD INAUGURAL MEETING Bro. Aimar Provides Club-RoomAn inaugural meeting took place at La Salle College yesterday evening of the La Salle College Old Boys Association. The Director of the College, Rev. Brother Aimar, was elected as Chairman of the Association.In his first address in this office, Brother Aimar said he knew that the newly-born Association lacked a club-room, and he would therefore offer a room in the school building to the Association.Mr L. Allaye, elected Vice-Chairman, wished the new Association steady growth and remarked on the fact that it owed its existence to the old boys having proposed it themselves, which already was an encouraging sign.
In September 1939, the La Salle Old Boys’ Association (LSOBA) was formally inaugurated, and Louis Allaye Chan (34) elected as the Association’s founding President, with Peter Ulrich (34), Vice President. Both Old Boys were in fact Hong Kong scholarship winners in the 1935 matriculation examinations. Together with Roland Soares (34), the three students snatched the top three of the six scholarships on offer. The first annual social function of the LSOBA was held at the Cecil Hotel in the spring of 1940, attended by 300 Old Boys, their families and friends. This was a huge success for a brand new association of a young school. The Hongkong Daily Press reported on 11th November 1940 under the title:
“REUNION OF LA SALLE OLD BOYS”. The article read:
Mr. Louis Allaye, President of the Association, was in the chair, and others present included the Rev. Father B.C. Kelly, Warden of Ricci Hall, Hongkong University, Brother Cassian, representing Brother Aimar, Director of La Salle College, and Hon. President of the O.B.A., and Mr F.M. Castro, Hon. Secretary of the Association.Following dinner, Mr Allaye ¡K introduced Fr. Kelly. Fr. Kelly referred to the good qualities of La Salle students and said that he could at once distinguish a La Salle undergraduate at the University.
Not long after the first reunion, the LSOBA held a Supper Dance at the Peninsula Hotel on 18th January 1941, and all proceeds from the sale of programmes and other novelties etc., were donated to the Bomber Fund for Britain’s war efforts in Europe. May 1941 was a busy month for the Academic Section of the LSOBA. Five lectures on various subjects were organised. The topics were interesting for the young crowd of Old Boys, of whom the eldest was hardly thirty.
- “Lighter shades of Education” by Rev Brother Cassian”
- “Religion and Life” by Dr John C.H. Wu “
- “How I became an Old Boy” by Rev Fr. G. Byrne S.J. “
- “Education Abroad” by Dr. Woo Pak Chuen, Ph. D. “
- “The Foundations of Civilisation” by Rev. Fr. G. Kennedy, S.J.”
In 1941, Peter Ulrich succeeded Louis Allaye as President. After Peter completed his Matriculation studies, he won a scholarship to study in the University of Hong Kong, and then returned to his Alma Mater as a science teacher. He was active on many school fronts and was always busy with school matters. Further, one year before he took up the Presidency, in 1939, he had been conscripted for the 5th A.A. Battery Unit, Corps Artillery, Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps (HKVDC) as Gunner.
On 8th December 1941, the Japanese attacked Hong Kong, and the HKVDC units were put in position. Peter’s Unit was positioned in Sai Wan Fort on Hong Kong Island. On 18th December, the Japanese overran his 5th A.A. Battery Unit. After capturing the survivors of the company, the Japanese bayoneted them one by one. Peter met his untimely fate in this tragic episode. The bodies of the massacred men were only discovered in a nearby trench in 1949.
All College and Association activities were suspended with the commencement of the Japanese raids. After the war, Peter was deemed missing-in-action, and was presumed dead. The office of the Old Boys’ Association was thus left vacant.
The rehabilitation after the war slowly brought the school and the Old Boys’ Association back on their feet. On 13th February 1947, a meeting was called at the Hong Kong Hotel, Pedder Street, Central, and Ferdinand Maria Castro (alias Sonny), a war veteran, became the third President of the Association.
Sonny, a Portuguese, was a member of the HKVDC and also fought during the Japanese attacks. Having survived the battle, he was interned in the Sham Shui Po Prisoners-of-War Camp for the duration of the Japanese occupation of over three years. Most internees in the Sham Shui Po Camp would not easily forget Sonny, for he was part of the Portuguese theatre company that put on shows inside the camp and was fondly remembered for willingly taking on female roles, and for his wit. From all accounts of those who knew Sonny, he was a gifted performer, but not a sissy!
Sonny is probably the only person to be a Past President of two long standing Old Boys’s Associations in Hong Kong in that, as an Old Boy of St. Joseph’s College before transferring to La Salle College in 1932, he was a President of the St. Joseph’s College Old Boys Association after his Presidency in LSOBA. Sonny served the LSOBA as President for two terms between 1947 and 1949, and passed away in 1985.
Following in Sonny’s footsteps, KAM Kwong Yee took over the helm from 1949 to 1952. K.Y. was very zealous in his duty and injected new life into the Association. Among other events, annual Dinner Dances were organized at some of the finer hotels around town, like the Peninsula Hotel and the Ritz Garden.
The baton of Presidency was passed on to VAN Kwok Shing, who held the post from 1952 to 1954. After K.S., the Association had the privilege to have two very prominent civil leaders to serve as Presidents, one after the other. Hilton Cheong-Leen (35) served the Association from 1954 to 1957, and Arnaldo de Oliveira Sales (36) who served in the subsequent three terms.
In the same year that he became president, Hilton founded a political group called the Hong Kong Civic Association. At the time, the school building was occupied by the Military and classes had to be held on Perth Street. Hilton was not shy to use his two capacities to speak out publicly against the military occupation of the school. As Chairman of the Civic Association, Hilton also suggested organising a city-wide campaign to apply pressure on the Military to release the College building back to the Brothers. Interestingly, Brother Cassian also Chairman of the Civic Association for a period, and had written to the military in that capacity to request the release of the school building.
When A. de O. Sales was President, he drove the Association to strengthen links with the members with the school and the Brothers in Hong Kong, as well as with Old Boys of St. Joseph’s College. Many joint association dinners were organised in the late 1950s to 1960s with St. Joseph’s College Old Boys’ Association (SJCOBA), a tradition which was kept up well into the 1970s. To ensure good communication between SJCOBA and LSCOBA, Brother Michael Curtin acted as the Liaison Officer.
Further, A. Sales also pushed for a stronger bonding with the International Confederation of Past Students of the Christian Brothers, based in Rome. As President of the LSOBA, he proposed to the SJCOBA that a Joint Committee of the two associations be formed in order to be affiliated to the large Confederation. The idea was warmly accepted by SJCOBA, and Sales was subsequently elected to the Confederation’s Council, winning an honour for Hong Kong.
For the benefit of the LSOBA, Sales proposed investing in twenty London registered shares of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, a solid blue-chip stock. This proved to be a wise move and only a year later, the value of the shares had already doubled on account of a bonus issue and a free issue. To date, the Association still holds onto the same lots of shares, which have continued to appreciate.
In order to attract more young graduates to join the Association immediately after leaving La Salle College, Sales also halved the Life Membership fee of HK$50, in the process attracting many younger Old Boys to join the Association.
Sales stepped down in 1960 and was replaced by Dr. Chan Pui Kai. Two years after the College returned from Perth Street to its rightful campus, Brother Felix offered a room in the College to the LSOBA as the Association’s conference room and social centre.
During Pui Kai’s Presidency, the LSOBA commissioned Italian sculptor Raoul Bigazzi to produce a bronze bust in memory of the founder of the College, Brother Aimar, at a cost of some HK$4,000. The bust was then placed in one of the courtyards of the old school building, and was unveiled in 1963 by Brother Nicet-Joseph, Superior General of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. The bust now graces the entrance of the current school building.
Through the 1960s and 1970s, the Association was led by a succession of able leaders who continued to offer meaningful and fun activities to members. There were annual outings to villas of Old Boys in the New Territories, where participants could swim and strengthen friendships. In the late 1960s, Brother Thomas Lavin, then the Sports Master, was kind to assist the Association in organising an annual Summer Sports Meets for both young and old Old Boys, to show off their fitness, or for the more senior boys, what remained of it.
The Association supported the school in many ways, including offering scholarships and prizes to students and also raising funds for various needs, like the repair of the collapsed Primary School wall (1966), the building of Brother Felix’s new school in Fanling (1964), as well as later raising funds for the extension of La Salle Primary School (1971-72). Very often, the fund raising initiatives were in the form of fund raising reunion dinners and balls.
With the plans finalised for the demolition of the old College building, the OBA held a big reunion dinner in the school hall on 2nd December 1977, to bid farewell to the old school building, where many members had spent memorable youthful days.
In the year following, under the leadership of Dr. Lawrence CHAN Siu Hung, the Committee saw the need to incorporate the association as a legal entity. On 29th May 1978, La Salle College Old Boys’ Association Limited (or “LSCOBA”) was incorporated, as a Company Limited by Guarantee and not having a Share Capital.
New School’s Facilities Open to Old Boys
With the re-development of the old school campus, and the official opening of the Quad in 1982, the Director Brother Raphael earmarked a room for Old Boys. The Old Boys were most grateful for this kind offer, and to this day make very good use of the room.
At the same time, eyeing the well equipped sporting facilities in the new building, President Frank Cheung obtained the kind consent of Brother Raphael to allow members of the Association to use the facilities on Sundays, including the soccer field, the swimming pool, the gymnasium for badminton, the squash and tennis courts, as well the basketball courts. This naturally became a very popular offering for members, and it gave many Old Boys the opportunity to meet old school friends while enjoying the facilities. To this day the Old Boys pay to use the facilities, and the money is channelled back to the school for maintenance or other student development uses.
With the offering of the use of the sports field, a few Old Boys soccer teams were formed, and a mini-league of four teams first appeared in 1984. Slowly, more teams were formed, and the OBA began to organise a formal Old Boys’ Soccer League, with qualified referees. Teams began to appear in tidy and attractive sportswear.In 2002-03, the booming soccer league was split into two divisions with a total of 21 teams. In 2006-2007, 25 Old Boys’ teams took part, enabling over 700 Old Boys to enjoy the facilities, to take part in a competitive league, and to keep up friendships with schoolmates. Besides the 11-a-side league, the OBA also organises a knock-out tournament and 7-a-side competition on the two small pitches.
The OBA also organised the first Christian Brothers’ Cup in the summer of 2003. This was a tournament in which teams from the four other Lasallian Alumni Associations in Hong Kong were invited to the College for a soccer competition extending over two weekends. This has become an annual event and a cherished get together of fellow Lasallians in Hong Kong. Of the four tournaments organised to date, the LSCOBA team has taken the title every time but once.
In much the same vein, an Old Boys’ Basketball League was also organised and has proven to be very popular.
The Old Boys’ Tie
The Old Boys’ Tie has been the singular most popular item offered by the OBA over the generations. This item has always been a sell out since the 1950s, and continues to be a prized item, worn proudly whether at Old Boys’ or school functions, or in the workplace. There have been many stories of Old Boys meeting fellow Lasallians because one recognizes the tie. Another tradition is that the school’s Matriculation (Form 6 and 7) students were given the privilege to wear the Old Boys tie at school, after they had joined the Association. This tradition arose as students were entitled to join the LSCOBA after completing Form 5, even though they continued to be students of the College. Therefore they were entitled to buy and wear the Old Boys’ Tie. Thus, wearing an Old Boys’ Tie to school conferred a sense of seniority, and signified that the student was enrolled as a member of the LSCOBA.
The Past Presidents Dinner
The Old Boys Association Committee developed a tradition of inviting the Past Presidents of the Association for dinner soon after taking office at the annual general meetings. The Past Presidents then reciprocated and invited the Committee Members to another dinner. Through these regular gatherings between the Past Presidents and the members of the present Committee, the Past Presidents came to know the current Committee members better and offered a valuable opportunity for the existing Committee Members to meet the experienced and seasoned leaders of the Old Boys community. These were also ideal occasions for the Past Presidents to be updated on the latest happenings in the Association.
The La Salle Foundation
Given that many of the facilities at La Salle College and the La Salle Primary School are above Government standards, substantial amounts of money would be required to meet the repairs and replacement costs in the long run. The La Salle Foundation Limited was founded as a charitable institution with the aim of promoting and advancing all aspects of education at La Salle College and Primary School. The Foundation has contributed to plan and oversee several major improvement and renovation projects of the two schools.
The seed of the Foundation was sown in the summer of 1991. In consultation with the Brothers, senior old boys and Past Presidents of the OBA, Past President Michael Sze incorporated a company with charitable status in February 1992. Some Brothers and all surviving Past Presidents became founding members. Michael was elected as the first Chairman and initiated major fund raising efforts. In 1997, Michael handed over the baton to Nicholas Ng, having generated HK$25 million in donations. Nicholas Ng guided the Foundation through one of its busiest periods. The Foundation raised funds and oversaw several major projects including the renovation of La Salle College building, the re-turfing of the astro-turf field at the College, and the installation of air conditioning in all classrooms and the school hall of La Salle Primary School.
With the Government’s introduction of the policy for whole day schooling in the primary sector, La Salle Primary School had to be redeveloped to accommodate its 36 classes for whole day schooling. The Foundation assisted the Primary School in its submission of a proposal to Government to redevelop the site of the school campus to enable whole day schooling. This was approved by the Government in December 1999 and work commenced in phases as from June 2000. Whole day schooling commenced in the new building in September 2002 and the project was fully completed by January 2005. Mr Ng contributed much time and effort in guiding the Redevelopment Committee and the Foundation collected over HK$40 million to cover the cost of non-standard facilities in the new school building. To mark the significance of the redevelopment, Nicholas also chaired the Editorial Committee of a full-colour commemorative publication “Flourishing High and Mighty”.
The Primary School redevelopment project coincided with the College’s own School Improvement Programme in 2003 to 2005. Again the Foundation, under the watchful command of Nicholas, played a significant role in raising funds for the non-standard items. Over HK$6 million was collected, exceeding the target set.
The donated funds held by the Foundation are prudently managed and invested in accordance with recommendations of the Finance Committee. The objective is to ensure there is always a sizeable fund to generate an adequate income to support not only a regular maintenance programme for above standard facilities in La Salle College and La Salle Primary School, but also other worthwhile projects that will enhance Lasallian education in Hong Kong.
In 2005 Lester Huang was elected Chairman to succeed Nicholas Ng.As will be seen, the Foundation has proven to be indispensable in raising funds for the many future school projects.
Overseas Chapters and the beginning of Old Boys’ Global Reunions
International travel and studying abroad became more common from the 1950s onwards. Old Boys gathered in universities and major cities in Canada and the USA, and some saw the opportunity to form a chapter of the LSCOBA. During the terms of Hilton Cheong-Leen and A. Sales, the first overseas chapters began to emerge. In 1959, a group of Old Boys studying in the University of British Columbia, Canada, led by former head-prefect, Alex Watt Chi Kin, wrote to the Hong Kong Old Boys Association, seeking to be affiliated to the Hong Kong Association as a Chapter. The OBA was very gratified by the request, and readily gave their unanimous approval and full support. As remarked in the 1959 OBA report,
Their primary objective in forming such a Chapter is to have an organisation prepared and ready to help by all means at its disposal those of our present students who wish to continue their studies in Canada.
A year later, the Montreal Chapter, was formed for Old Boys who were studying in McGill and Sir George William’s Universities.
In December 1966, a group 14 Old Boys and former boarders of La Salle College in Vietnam congregated to attend a solemn Requiem Service for Brother Aimar, whose remains were due to be transferred back to La Salle College soon after. After the gathering the Old Boys initiated a new branch of LSCOBA in Saigon, with Do Vang Lee, who was the former Vietnamese Ambassador to the USA, as their President.
In 1976, several more overseas branches applied for affiliation to the LSCOBA, including Old Boys from Toronto and Vancouver, Canada, as well as Old Boys in the universities of Wisconsin, Stanford and Cornell, testifying to the strong and loyal support of the Old Boys from all over the world for their Alma Mater. Currently, these are the Overseas Chapters:
- The Edmonton Chapter
- The Toronto Chapter
- The Vancouver Chapter
In the USA:
- The East Coast Chapter
- The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter
- The Southern California Chapter
And in other countries there are:
- The London Chapter, United Kingdom
- The Singapore Chapter
- The Shanghai Chapter, China, formed in 2006, as the latest addition.
With a strong global network of alumni, together with improved communication through electronic communications, the LSCOBA website and the internet, activities among Chapters began to foster. The first formal inter-chapter activity in North America occurred in July 2002, when Brother Thomas Lavin was on a trip to the West Coast, visiting Los Angeles and Vancouver. The Southern California Chapter invited Old Boys from the Bay Area to visit them and to have a friendly soccer match, followed by a dinner gathering. Seeing the huge success of the event, the Bay Area returned the favour, and invited the Southern California Chapter to their city a few months later for another match, this time joined also by the Vancouver Chapter. That event came to be known as the first La Salle Old Boys Brother Thomas’ Cup, later to be renamed the “North-American Cup”. The tournament developed into an annual event with different chapters taking turns to host it.
In the summer of 2003, Vancouver played host, and the participating chapter-teams covered Toronto and Edmonton. In the summer of 2004, the 3rd North American Cup cum 1st LSCOBA-North American World Summit was held in Toronto. The summit meeting was initiated since it was an opportune time for overseas Old Boys to learn more about the mother school, and to exchange views and discuss issues relating to La Salle College back in Hong Kong.
In 2005, Los Angeles hosted the Global Reunion / North-American Cup. The gathering offered a wider variety of events. The first lay principal of the College, Dr. Paul Lau, was a guest at the event, and he shared a lot of first hand news and information about the school, which the Old Boys appreciated. Old Boys from seven Chapters and almost ten other North American cities were present.Edmonton stepped forward to host the 2006 Global Reunion. Though small in numbers, the alumni in Edmonton were big in ambitions and commitment. Those who attended the reunion felt the tremendous effort exerted, and it was another successful reunion.
For the 75th Anniversary of the College, the Global Reunion will for the first time travel across oceans to be held back in the hometown of La Salle College, Hong Kong. Many overseas Old Boys are expected make a special effort to return to Hong Kong for the occasion. Similar to the established formats of previous reunions, a discussion time has been established, soccer matches and a golf tournament scheduled, school visits arranged. There will also be a Thanks Giving Mass and a Grave Visit to St. Michael’s Cemetery in Happy Valley where the deceased Brothers rest. Two topics have been selected for the discussions, “Building a Global Lasallian Network” and “Challenges of the education reform facing La Salle College”.
The LSCOBA website
With the development of emails and the internet in the early 1990s, some Old Boys established an email list to facilitate communication. As the list grew, in 1995, a group of enthusiastic boys from the 1993 class created a website called LSCOBEN, which stood for La Salle College Old Boys Electronic Network. Not only did the Old Boys contribute their time creating the website, they also funded the initiative.
Among other features, a communication tool was introduced to the worldwide Old Boys’ community ¡V the Chatboard, an area in the LSCOBA website in which Old Boys could read and exchange views through posted messages accessible to all. With this, Old Boys from around the world were provided with a channel for sharing information linking, especially on subjects related to their Alma Mater. In the ten years or so of the operation of the Chatboard to date, there have been over 34,000 postings on over 8700 topics , and this in itself has become a heritage collection of thoughts, memories and discussions, at some times heated.
Other features that have been added include an online album filled with photos of yester-years and current events, sections where Overseas Chapters can post news of their local occurrences, a section dedicated to the memory of deceased Brothers, Staff and Old Boys. Besides, an Old Boys Electronic Database was created, where Old Boys could register their personal particulars and professional profiles, with a search facility for those who wish to seek advice. Today, the website, www.lscoba.com, is an important and thriving platform and an important communications channel for Old Boys. It facilities communication, enhances members bonding and indeed encourages greater accountability of the OBA Officers and Committee Members to the members they serve.
Changes many come and go, but the mission of the La Salle College Old Boys’ Association has not changed since its 1939 inception: to serve the interest of her members, to act as a leading force to contribute back to the Alma Mater, and to support the current students of La Salle College.
All Old Boys of La Salle College have a particular affection for the School Song, and sing it with gusto at all Lasallian gatherings. In this may they keep the flame alive and remain faithful to the lines in the song:
High aloft her flag we will hold, and strive that her fame may grow.
Academic successes and athletic victories would be of little value to us unless these successes are indicative of something deeper and more important – the excellent and wholesome spirit of the day by day life in school. An unfailing source of inspiration to a La Salle Old Boy is integral loyalty to the past: the silent and deeply personal fidelity in daily conduct to the La Salle ideal – the allegiance of a man to the pure vision of life formed in boyhood’s years, an allegiance which no adversity can shake.~ Silver Jubilee Lasallite, 1957