Faculty says it with flowers and poems
A rose has greeted Celine Gunawardene every day
by Hilary Thomson staff writer
Bidding farewell to a favourite staff member can be a bitter
pill to swallow, but the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences has come up with a
unique sugar coating.
Every day for the last month a red rose has appeared on the desk of Celine
She retires today after 25 years of service at UBC with all but three of
those years spent working in the faculty as an administrative clerk,
Undergraduate and Graduate Programs.
"Celine is the linchpin of undergraduate and graduate admissions," says
associate dean of Undergraduate Programs, Marguerite Yee. "She has the answer
to virtually every question."
In addition to assisting hundreds of prospective students, students and
graduates Gunawardene has worked with several generations of staff
and faculty including deans and associate deans, some of whom are now faculty
It constitutes a big fan club and the fans have written Gunawardene notes of
appreciation to accompany the daily rose delivery.
Former dean John McNeill confessed in his note that he always appreciated
Gunawardene because she laughed at his jokes. Prof. Helen Burt created a
special poem in her honour. The whole month of notes -- many of which refer to
Gunawardene's serene and warm disposition -- are going into a scrapbook.
Even in a faculty known for creating something unique for each retiree,
Gunawardene is amazed by the attention she is receiving.
"This is the best faculty on campus," says the Sri Lankan who came to Canada in
1972. "I have always given the best I can for students -- they are the reason we
are here every day and working with them makes every day memorable. I have been
blessed to work in a place like this."
When Gunawardene wakes up tomorrow she may not be receiving a red rose but she
won't be short of bouquets.
A champion cake decorator, one of her specialties is creating flower
arrangements made of icing. Orchids, stephanotis and ivy are reproduced with
amazing accuracy to sit atop wedding and other special occasion cakes.
One of those special occasions is Congregation when Gunawardene makes a cake
about the size of her desk for graduating students -- the kind of generous
support that earned her the Just Desserts Award from students in 1988.
After all these years in Pharmaceutical Sciences, Gunawardene has written her
own prescription for retirement. She looks forward to volunteer work, travel
and spending more time with family.