Posted on April 14th, 2011

By an investigative reporter

 University of Kelaniya has arranged for the award of the Professor Shelton Gunaratne Scholarship for outstanding mass communication students from the current academic year, Professor Rohana Laxman Piyadasa, the new head of the mass communication department, has informed the university Vice Chancellor Sarath Amunugama.

Dr. Gunaratne, professor of mass communications emeritus at Minnesota State University Moorhead, USA, sent a donation of Rs.1.1 million to the University of Kelaniya in December 2007 to inaugurate the scholarship award, which the university council had already approved.

Because Dr. Gunaratne did not get a response from the Kelaniya University on the three-year delay in implementing the scholarship award, the Sri Lanka ambassador to the United States, Mr. Jaliya, Wickramasuriya, agreed to look into the matter in February 2011.

Professor Amunugama explained that he forwarded Dr. Gunaratne’s letter (addressed to the vice chancellor) to the mass communication department “without any action.”

The vice-chancellor told the ambassador: “It might take some time to know the reasons [for not responding to Dr. Gunaratne] since the former Head Prof. [Chandrasiiri] Rajapaksha is on sabbatical leave abroad and the then Dean Prof. Sunanda Medduma Bandara has been released to serve the Government.”

Professor Piyadasa said that he and the new dean of social sciences had both already taken action to activate this scholarship since last December. They were awaiting the final results (released last month) to identify the 3rd year recipient before announcement.

Furthermore, Professor Amunugama has informed ambassador Wickramasuriya that at a meeting with both the head of mass communication and the dean of social sciences, the university decided to:

  • enhance the capital of the fixed deposit by adding all accumulated interests laying in the University Account (including Rs.82,320  that was initially set aside for granting the school for the year 2008)
  • use the 75 percent of the interest received at the last maturity of the FD and one third of it to be granted to each of the three students: the student who earns the highest marks for Mass Communication among those who opt for the Special Degree Course from 2nd year onwards, the two students who  gain highest marks in the 2nd and 3rd year examinations in Mass Communication
  • communicate to Professor Gunaratne each year the names of the recipients and the amount granted to each of them.  

Dr. Gunaratne was the first Sri Lankan to be awarded a doctorate in mass communication anywhere in the world. The University of Minnesota (Minneapolis-Saint Paul) awarded his Ph.D. in 1972.

Dr. Gunaratne was a Lake House journalist when he went to the United States on a yearlong World Press Institute Fellowship in 1966. After completing the fellowship, he entered the school of journalism at the University of Oregon, which awarded him a Master of Arts degree in 1968.

Dr. Gunaratne said he donated the money to the University of Kelaniya because it was the only university in Sri Lanka to have a full-fledged department of mass communication.

He said his donation was an acknowledgment of his gratitude to the people of Sri Lanka for the free education he received from kindergarten to the university.

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