THE late Sultan Azlan Shah, Sultan of
Perak (1928-2014), was the first pro-chancellor of Universiti Pulau
Pinang (UPP) before it was renamed Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).
Fondly known to the student community as
Yang Mulia Raja Azlan Shah, he held the pro-chancellor post for more
than a decade, from October 1971 to February 1984.
In early February 1984, he vacated the
position to ascend the throne as Sultan of Perak following the demise of
Sultan Idris ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar.
During his stint as pro-chancellor, he also served as chair of the Higher Education Advisory Council (1974-1976).
He was made a Federal Court judge (in
1973) and later appointed Chief Justice of Malaya (1979), an office
which he held until his appointment as the youngest Lord President of
the Federal Court of Malaysia in November 1982. In his last year as
pro-chancellor, he was Raja Muda (Crown Prince) of Perak, from July 1,
Together with the visionary first
vice-chancellor, the late Professor Tan Sri Hamzah Sendut, the
university was placed in a trajectory of prominence and ready to lead as
the only other university in the country.
An aura of high intellectual culture
permeated through the campus of barely a few hundred students in mostly
makeshift buildings. But there was a great sense of keenness that this
university dared to be bold and had no qualms in blazing new trails,
mostly thinking out-of-the-box.
UPP/USM made its presence felt with an
innovative structure of a “school” (pusat pengajian) system as compared
to a traditional system and it introduced concepts such as a desasiswa
instead of a hall or college. These were in keeping with the motto Kami
Memimpin and innovations became a norm.
Another intellectual giant, the late Tan
Sri Nordin Sopiee (of the Nordin Sopiee Chair for Global Studies at
USM), quipped: “What is casual in USM, is innovative in other places!”
The motto was not confined to the academic field where the charismatic scholar prince had left his indelible mark.
As he was active in sports — athletics, football, cricket and hockey — in his young days, he carved yet another legacy.
Inspired by the then pro-chancellor,
hockey was synonymous with USM. Pesta Hoki USM-Pulau Pinang, which
started modestly in 1973 as Pesta Hoki USM, gained recognition as the
largest hockey gathering of its kind in the country.
By the early 2000s, it became globally
known as Pesta Hoki USM-Penang International with its unique sporting
brand of “Simply the Best!”
The event was dubbed “the world's
biggest hockey carnival in the sixes and sevens category organised by an
educational institution”. It has been wholly run by students since its
In 2007, the Malaysia Book of Records
noted the participation of a record number of 410 teams, and in 2009 —
for the first time in the history of Pesta Hoki — the event was named
the Longest Non-Stop Hockey Tournament in Malaysia.
Indeed this carnival-like sports meet
brought together not only more than 400 teams but also thousands of
hockey players, officials and sports enthusiasts for an exciting
three-day competition, cultural exchange and friendship. It celebrated
its 40th anniversary last year. The coveted prize is, of course, the
trophy named after the late Sultan of Perak as part of a long legacy
from no less than “The Father of Malaysian Hockey”.
Without doubt, the UPP-USM alumni will cherish its memories of its first pro-chancellor.
To further ignite the continued sense of
pride crucial to the survival of the university, USM is urged to name
the sports complex throughout the USM main campus after the late Sultan.
It is humble tribute to his colossal contributions to the alma mater, especially in sports.