S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia is a School affiliated to the Anglican Church of Ceylon offering an all-round education to boys from Nursery to Advanced Levels.
The School was founded by the first Anglican Bishop of Colombo, the Rt. Revd. James Chapman, D. D. whose vision was to establish a School that would also serve as a training base for clergy as well as a Cathedral for his new Diocese upon arrival in Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then known) on the 7th of November 1845. When laying the foundation stone for the School on the 21st of December 1849 Bishop Chapman spoke of “enduring works” of being of very “humble beginnings.” The two Church of England Mission Societies, the SPCK and the SPG, helped fund his venture and on the 3rd of February 1851 the College of Saint Thomas the Apostle in the then fashionable suburb of Mutwal to the north of Colombo was opened and dedicated to the Glory of God, with the twin objectives of training Anglican Clergy and producing integrated citizens for what was then a Crown Colony through the disciplines, education and formation of the Christian Faith.
Although Christian values were the corner stone on which the School was founded, students of all races, ethnicities, castes, social classes and religions studied together in harmony. Despite his hopes that the School would be a cradle for local ordained ministry Bishop Chapman himself lamented that he recognized that it had become more secular and pluralistic in its outlook than he would have wished and he expressed concern about need to maintain the Christian character of the School. This has been done. Today S. Thomas’ College is very much a Christian and Anglican institution in that it maintains the fundamental tenets of the Christian Faith within the Anglican ethos of comprehensiveness and inclusivity.
The School grew from strength to strength in Mutwal, for over three score years, carefully nurtured by several dedicated educators who served as Warden (the title for Headmaster deliberately chosen by Bishop Chapman), among them, the Rev’d Dr C. W. Wood (1st Warden), the Ven. E. F.Miller (who also served as Archdeacon of Colombo), the Rev’d W. A. Buck and the Rev’d W. A. Stone. By 1916, Warden Stone, found that the environs of Mutwal that had become adversely affected by coal dust from the Colombo Harbour when coal powered ships replaced ships with sails, were not best suited for his pupils and so with the support and blessings of Bishop E. A. Copleton and Mr C. E. A Dias, embarked on an ambitious plan to shift the School from Mutwal to Mount Lavinia. It is significant that Mount Lavinia had been Bishop Chapman’s first choice as a location for his School when he had been looking for a suitable location in 1849. But the cost of purchasing the house that was once the Governor’s Residence and later the Mount Lavinia Grand Hotel was considered prohibitive at that time and he had abandoned the idea. The School reopened at the new site in Mount Lavinia on the 26th of January 1918 under Warden Stone’s courageous leadership. Since then a number of great Wardens, among them the Ven. K. C. McPherson (later Archdeacon of Bombay), the Rev’d Canon R. S. de Saram (the first old boy of the School and son of the soil to be Warden as well as the longest serving, retiring in 1958 after 26 years in office), Mr. C. H. L. Davidson (the first layman to be Warden) and Mr W. M. N de Alwis have ensured that the vision and core values (traditions), handed down from generation to generation were maintained untarnished and unimpaired. In 1951 under Warden de Saram’s courageous leadership S. Thomas’ College became a full private and fee levying but government approved School.
The College has been managed since 1927 by a representative Board of Governors chaired by the Anglican Bishop of Colombo who is also known by his historic title as the ‘Visitor to the College’. The administration and day to day management of the College itself is headed by a Warden assisted by a Sub Warden.
There is also a School Chaplaincy connected with the famous Chapel of the Transfiguration.
The School is divided into the Primary or Lower School (with Grades 1 – 5 known by their traditional names of Kindergarten, Form I, Form II, Lower III and Upper III), Lower Secondary or Middle School (with Grades 6 – 9 known by their traditional names of Lower IV, Upper IV, Form V & Lower VI) and Upper Secondary or Upper School (with Grades 10 and 11) and thereafter divided into three main Senior School Advanced Level sections (known as the College Forms B, A & E) for Arts and Commerce, Science and the International of London Advanced Levels. Each of the Sections is headed by a Head of Section under whom there are Deputy Heads, Sectional Heads and Faculty Heads for each subject group. The sections were restructured in 2017.
A Nursery School was opened for the sons and daughters of Old Boys and Staff in January 2017, allowing students from as young as 2+ to enter this School. The boys students passing out from the Nursery gain entry into Kindergarten automatically while the girls seek admission to one of our corresponding schools for girls in Colombo.
S. Thomas’ College is widely reputed to have one of the most beautiful school campuses in Sri Lanka, approximately half an hour’s drive from the southern limits of the City of Colombo. The entrance to the school is marked by the awe-inspiring Chapel of the Transfiguration, which towers over the rest of the campus. The Chapel is a vital element in the education at STC and is the centre of the spiritual life of the College, where the spirituality of many generations of Thomians have been formed and most importantly experienced God over the years. Synonymous with the Chapel is it’s world famous Choir that made its debut in 1854 as the Choir of the new Cathedral of Christ in Colombo that was consecrated in the precincts of the School at Mutwal that year. Dominating the interior of this Byzantine structure from the apse in David Paynter’s masterpiece mural depicting the Transfiguration of Jesus that was completed and dedicated in 1968 with its unique image of a beardless Christ. Dear to the hearts of all Thomians of diverse faiths and races, the Chapel serves as a reminder to us of our heritage, which is a gift of God.
Connected with the School Chapel is the Chaplaincy served by a full-time Chaplain and a Chaplaincy Team. The Chaplain leads a team of full-time School Counsellors and also coordinates the Sound Mind Sound Body Programme which is a unique programme for S. Thomas’ College.
Beyond the famous Quadrangle, the main school buildings, the College Hall, the Dormitories and Library, the vast campus, modeled on the traditional English public school, stretches down to the famous golden beaches of Mount Lavinia, reaching the deep blue Indian Ocean.
S. Thomas’ provides a sound education in both Local (G. C. E. A/L & O/L) & London A/L Examination systems. Instructions are given in Sinhala and Tamil in the Lower School, and in all three media from the Middle School to the College Forms (A/L).
The biggest asset possessed by the School is the student body which presently comprises of about 2800 members of varied faiths and ethnicities. It is a well-disciplined community and excels in both academic and extra and co-curricular activities.
S. Thomas’ was the first school in Sri Lanka to have its own swimming pool, gifted the School in 1933 by Dr. R. L. Hayman (later Sub Warden and also founding Headmaster of S. Thomas’ College at Gurutalawa in 1942). The Big Club and the Small Club grounds afford Thomians the facilities for many sports; namely Cricket, Rugby, Soccer, Athletics and Hockey. There are also well-laid courts for Tennis and Basketball. In 1994 the Indoor Cricket Nets were added and the pinnacle of all facilities the Indoor Sports Complex in 3 phases was completed in 1996. The sports complex houses Table Tennis facilities, several Badminton Courts, 3 glass backed Squash courts – all to international standards, together with a well equipped Gymnasium.
The annual Cricket Encounter between S. Thomas’ College and Royal College (known as the Big Match or the Battle of the Blues) is the second oldest uninterrupted cricket encounter in the world, the first being the inter-collegiate match between St Peter’s College and Prince Alfred College I Adelaide, Australia that commenced one year before the Royal-Thomian in 1878.
S. Thomas’ also boasts of more than 50 student Societies and Clubs. The Student Christian Movement and the other 3 religious societies play an important role in fostering religious educationand nurturing the spirituality of the Thomian youth. The Chapel Choir still continues to maintain the highest standards in Anglican Choral Music and is perhaps one of the only school choirs in Asia to be affiliated to the Royal School of Church Music in the United Kingdom. The annual Festal Service of Nine Lessons and Carols which was initiated by the Revd. Canon Roy Yin in 1946 is an eagerly awaited event and is modelled on that of Kings’ College, Cambridge where Fr Yin had served as an Assistant Chaplain prior to coming to Sri Lanka as Chaplain of STC. The Guild of All Souls for Altar Servers also plays a vital role in the Chapel and the servers assist the Chaplain at Chapel Services. The other Clubs and Societies offer a range of activities and involvements from the educational to social welfare. The Thomian Union, the English Literary and Debating Society (the oldest Society of the School), the English Drama society, the Science Associations, the Commerce Society, the Interact Club, the UN Club, the ICT Club and the Culinary Arts Society are some of them. Among other activities, STC has the various Bands, Scouting and Cadeting and a College Magazine that has been published since 1875.
The School runs a Boarding, which since the inception of the College, has provided many Thomians from distant regions of Sri Lanka a ‘home away from home’.
S. Thomas’ has over the years produced many Thomians who have rendered great service to their Church, to the Nation and to whichever country in the world where many of them have migrated.
STC has made a significant contribution to Sri Lanka’s progress. Among its proud products stand a host of Christian Clergymen, Statesmen (including Prime Ministers the Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake, the Hon. Dudley Senanayake, the Hon. S. W. R. D Bandaranaike and the Hon. W. Dahanayaka), Cabinet Ministers, Members of the Judiciary, Scholars, Scientists, Diplomats, Doctors, Engineers, Accountants, Musicians, Artists, Dramatists etc.
S. Thomas’ College is therefore much more than just a school. It is an institution rich in tradition, characterized by almost 175 years of hard work, dedication and achievement, all imbibed with the legendary Thomian Spirit. It has been a pioneering institution which has understood and nurtured the very best in youth; where mere boys came in and great men went out to be “men and gentlemen always”, men who beat the odds with the legendary Thomian grit and gentlemen who have always upheld the motto of the School given to it by the Founder himself – Esto Perpetua Be Thou Forever.