Rev. Fr. Peter Pillai OMI, a priest of God of rare calibre is a true gift of God to the people of this country. Having received his primary education in the school where his parents were teachers, he joined St. Benedict’s College, Colombo for his secondary education. This exceptionally intelligent child passed his Cambridge Junior with 8 distinctions at the age of 14 and passed his Cambridge Senior at the age of 16, once again with 8 distinctions becoming the first in the whole of the British Empire.
Subsequently, he became an undergraduate of the University College of Colombo and obtained a B. Sc. Degree with a First Class and just the next year, he got through his B. Sc. in Mathematics in the first division. Having received a scholarship to proceed for higher studies, he went to the University of Cambridge where he received 2 basic degrees and a post graduate degree.
Coming back to Sri Lanka after completing the educational achievements in such great manner, he could have been much recognized in his career path, particularly in the field which he would choose for his profession. Yet, this young lad was contemplating on pursuing his future aspirations in the path of God. He decided to become a priest and made plans for that. A man of such great wealth of knowledge and recognition leaves behind all that comfort that may come his way just to be with the Lord.
Having added 2 more educational qualifications in the form of 2 doctorates, he was ordained in 1934 after which he immediately returned to the motherland. His first appointments were in educational institutes where he worked with vigour, zeal and zest.
He campaigned against injustice and exploitation of the society which was much prevalent during that time. He wrote journals on this topic. His untiring efforts brought about the enactment of Shop and Office Workers’ Ordinance, Wages Boards’ Ordinance, Employees Provident Fund Act, Industrial Disputes Act, National Housing Act, Debt Conciliation Board Ordinance, Land Redemption Act etc. which form a great part of the industrial and labour laws of this country to this day without changing.
He was appointed the first Sri Lankan Rector of revered St. Joseph’s College, Colombo in 1940 which position he held for 21 long years. Committing himself completely for the young lives and for education, he worked as the President of the Headmasters’ Union, Member of the University of Ceylon Senate, founder of the Catholic Students’ Federation, the Graduate Federation, the Catechetical Institute, the Xaverian Movement and above all, the Aquinas College of Higher Studies. All these movements and institutions had only one purpose which is to uplift the standards of education and the lives of the students of this country.
He was a tower of strength to the lives of the students for their future aspirations. He treated everyone alike, having the only intention in mind to make all of them great scholars. His commitment to the education of this country is unmatched, particularly from the point of view of a silent worker. He is a man of a rare calibre and truly an unsung hero of our times.