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UBC Reports | Vol. 46 | No. 19 | November 30, 2000

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 Gunawardene.

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 members.

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.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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