St. Joseph's College, Colombo

St. Joseph's College is a Catholic educational institution in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It was established in 1896 by French missionaries, with Rev Christopher Ernst Bonjean playing a leading role. The college has over 4000 students with a staff of over 200. Distinguished former students include Cardinal Thomas Cooray the first Cardinal from Sri Lanka, and President Ranasinghe Premadasa. The motto of the college is "In Scientia et Virtute", meaning "In Knowledge and Virtue" in Latin.


St. Joseph's College, Colombo

In 1892, the idea of a Catholic College emerges with the proposal of the Archbishop of Colombo Rt. Rev. Fr. Christopher Bonjean.

On 6 January 1892, a pastoral letter was sent to all the priests espousing the desirability of building a Catholic College at St. Mary’s College premises at Mattauliya. In April 1892, a public meeting was held to collect funds and discuss the plans for the Catholic College.

Thereafter 27 acres of Land called the ‘uplands’ was bought by the Archbishop for this project, from the government. Later however, this land was bought back by the government with compensation, and the Catholic Church bought a land at Maradana in Darley Road from an Egyptian called Arabi Pasha for the College building.

On 12 December 1894 the foundation stone was laid by the papal delegate for Asia Rev. Msgr, Zalesbbi. In 1896, on 2 March 1896, St. Joseph’s College Colombo was declared open with 211 students in the school proper and 96 students in the preparatory school with Very Rev. Fr. Charles Collin as the First Rector. In November 1896, the College building was formally declared open by Governor of Ceylon West Redgeway and was blessed by Most Rev. Msgr, Zalesbbi, in the presence of the Archbishop Rt. Rev. Fr. Melizan O.M.I.

The Rector‘s office, the College office and the classrooms were all housed in the first building â€" the Clock Tower building of the College. The College Magazine was started in 1905. The Bonjean Hall was the third building to be completed. Fr. Charles Lytton, the second Rector, planned and supervised the building project of the Bonjean Hall.

Fr. Emil Nicholas O.M.I. was the third Rector appointed in 1910. To Fr. Emil Nicholas goes the credit of primary work on the first Religious Association of the College â€" the Guild of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

In 1914, there was the appointment of the great educationist, scientist and efficient administrator Fr. Maurice J. Legoc O.M.I. the fourth Rector. In 1933 the present Primary building â€" originally named “The Maurice Block” was constructed. The exterior facade of this building was an exact copy of the Bonjean Hall was declared open by Most Rev. Fr. Marques.

The next massive building was the (south Wing) a two-storied building to house the classrooms. During Fr. Maurice Legoc’s tenure of office, there was emphasis of the science subjects in the curriculum, Fr. Legoc’s favourite subject was Botany. His own publication “Tropical Botany” was used as a text book in O’ Level classes in India and Sri Lanka. In 1930, Fr. Maurice Legoc introduced a scheme of scholarships to the under privileged students.

To extend the fruits of knowledge to the students in the outstations, Fr. Maurice Legoc commenced:

(b) St. Paul’s College Waragoda (1935)
(c) St. John’s College, Dematagoda (1939)

On 19 March 1929, the foundation stone for the College Chapel was laid by the Archbishop of Colombo. The College Chapel is a fitting memorial to Fr. Maurice Legoc.

The southern end of the Primary building an exact copy of the Grotto in Lourdes was built. In 1940, the Very Rev. Fr. Peter A. Pillai (fifth Rector) was appointed. In 1947 â€" 27 February, due to the World War 2, the College buildings were taken over by the Army. The College was in ‘exile’ from 1942 to 1946, branches of the College were housed in Homagama, Kalaniya, Gampaha and later at Borella.

On 30 July 1952, the swimming pool was declared open by Lord Soulbury, the Governor General of Sri Lanka. after the era of Fr. Peter A. Pillai, Rev. W. L. A. Don Peter (sixth Rector) was appointed as the Rector of St. Joseph’s College in 1959. Fr. Don Peter was the first diocesan priest to hold this responsible post.

In 1960, after the take over of the schools by the Government the financial support was stopped by the government. The College became a private, non fee levying school.

To uplift the financial situation of the College, Fr. W. L. A. Peter founded the Welfare Association, and also started a pre-school for St. Joseph’s. After the tenure of the Sinhala scholar, Fr. W. L. A. don Peter, Rev. Fr. Mervyn Weekakkody (seventh Rector) was given the task of being Chief Executive of St. Joseph’s. after a brief period, Fr. Weerakkody retired as Rector and in 1974, Rev. Fr. Quintus Fernando (eighth Rector) was appointed as Rector. FR. Quintus Fernando was called the architect of the green revolution at St. Joseph’s. He gave pride of pace to agriculture. The agro 74 was a great exhibition which displayed agricultural plots and stressed the importance of agriculture in the school curriculum.

The ‘Open air stadium’ was constructed during the era of Fr. Quintus. The cricket ‘Tuft Pitch’ became a reality during Fr. Quintus’s tenure of office. On 19 September 1977, the Hon. Ranasinghe Premdasa, the first old boy Prime Minister was felicitated by the Josephian family. The work of the Premadasa Pavilion was directed by Fr. Quintus Fernando.

In 1979, Fr. Neville Emmanuel (ninth Rector) was appointed as Rector. During the era of Fr. Neville he tried his best to re-introduce the Catholic atmosphere in the College. Fr. Neville started the scheme of granting incentives to teachers based on punctuality, attendance, good teaching etc. Fr. Neville initiated the sports council, to improve standards in the sports arena. In May 1983, Rev. Fr. B. Stanley Abeysekara was appointed as the 10th Rector of St. Joseph’s College.

To provide an opportunity for deserving under-privileged students to study at St. Joseph’s, a grade 5 scholarship examination was inaugurated in the College. On the results of this examination these students were give an opportunity to study at St. Joseph’s College. In 1987 Thomas Cardinal Cooray, a past student of the College was conferred a very special honour â€" ‘Deva Dharma Keethisiri Uttunga Vidyala Puthra’.

During the era of Fr. Stanley Abeysekara, the following additions and renovations to the college buildings were completed with funds provided by the Welfare Association and Old Boys.

(a) A two storied building was completed. The top-story for the classrooms, and the ground floor for the sick room, boarders’ refectory and modern kitchen.

(b) An auditorium was built where the Chemistry labs were housed.

(c) In 1991, a three storied building was constructed for class-rooms and laboratories for the advanced level students.

(d) The Enderamulla Branch school was inaugurated.

(e) A sports complex cum auditorium was declared open by Nicholas Marcus Fernando on 19 March 1996, funded mainly by Old Boys worldwide.

The College centenary year was inaugurated.

On 30 March 1996, Rev. Fr. Victor Silva (11th Rector) was appointed as Rector of St. Joseph’s College. The Choral singing at St. Joseph’s College reached very high standards, with Mr. Francis Almeida as music director. The Bonjean Hall and the College swimming pool were renovated with funds from Old Boys from the country and overseas. The introduction of the boating facilities were a valuable addition to St. Joseph’s College during the era of Fr. Victor Silva, three classroom buildings were constructed for the Enderamulla branch school. The branch-school of St. Joseph’s at Kadolkelle â€" Negombo was inaugurated during the latter days of Fr. Victor Silva.

On 3 October 2005, Sylvester Ranasinghe was appointed as 12th Rector of St. Joseph’s College. A systematic staff development programme was introduced at St. Joseph’s by the Rector. During Ranasinghe’s era, different age groups of past students started undertaking different projects for the welfare of the College â€" innovations and refurbishment of the different buildings were undertaken by the old boys under the direction of the Rector.One significant restoration was the Bonjean Hall undertaken by the Old Boys' Union at a cost of over Rs. 12 m. The dormitory, classrooms were restored and renovated by old boys.

Computerizing different aspects of school administration and curriculum has been completed.

The present college

St. Joseph's College, Colombo

The school functions as an "assisted school" with substantial state funding but mainly from its old boy unions worldwide

Situated in the heart of the city, its set of buildings cover 12 acres (49,000 m2) and comprise a sports complex, and a swimming pool that is built to Olympic Standards.

The school prepares students for local Ordinary and Advanced Level examinations in Sinhalese, Tamil and English Mediums. In 1996 the latest branch School of St. Joseph's College was opened in Enderamulla, Wattala, 15 km from Colombo. Another branch school that has become a leading Catholic school in the country is St Peter's College, Colombo. Previously known as St. Joseph's South, it was built to cater to the families in the southern part of Colombo who failed to admit their sons to St. Joseph's Colombo, which has now become their main rivals and compete in sports and other activities which are known as "Battle of the Saints" in Sri Lanka. In 2009 st Peter's won the battle after 30 years.

Present rector of St.Joseph's college is Rev.Fr.Travis Gabriel while Rev.Fr.Anton Ranjith is the vice rector.


Grade 1 to 9 : White collared shirt with the school badge as well as Blue colored short-Pants with White socks and Black Shoes.

Grade 10 to 13 :White collared shirt with the school badge as well as White colored long-pants with white socks and black shoes.

For Special Occasions : White collared long sleeved shirt with white colored pants plus the college tie and also white socks with black shoes


The 4 houses at St. Joseph's were named in honour of the 4 archbishops who were influential in running this great institution in its early years.

     - Bonjean

     - Coudert

     - Melizan

     - Marque

Past Rectors

The College Anthem

The College Anthem was composed by Edgar and J. M. L. Neydorff, and the original manuscript is dated 25 November 1920. The words are by J. M. Lanigan, OMI ................................................................................

Notable alumni

This is a list of some of the notable alumni of the St. Joseph's College in no particular order.

  • J M S Brito - Deputy Chairman - Aitken Spence PLC former chairman - Sri Lankan Airlines and DFCC bank
  • Romesh de Silva- President's Counsel, Former President of the Bar Association and leading member of the Sri Lankan Bar
  • Ranasinghe Premadasa - former president of Sri Lanka
  • Mohan Peiris - Present Chief Justice of Sri Lanka
  • Justice Priyasath Dep Present Judge of the Supreme court
  • Cardinal Thomas Cooray - first Sri Lankan Cardinal and Archbishop of Colombo
  • Nimalasiri Silva - former Sri Lankan Diplomat
  • Oswald Thomas Colman Gomis - former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Colombo, Chancellor of the University of Colombo
  • Sir Edwin Wijeyeratne - former Cabinet Minister of Home Affairs and Rural Development
  • Niranjan Deva-Aditya - Conservative Party (UK) Conservative Member of the European Parliament
  • J. P. de Fonseka - essayist and editor.
  • Major General Anton Muttukumaru - first Ceylonese commander of the Ceylon Army
  • Desmond Fernando P.C - President Counsel Mr. Fernando was the first Secretary of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) in 1974, twice President of the BASL, and the only Sri Lankan and second Asian to hold the prestigious post of the President of the International Bar Association (IBA)
  • Major General H. W. G. Wijeyekoon, OBE, ED - Commander of the Army (1 Jan. 1960 â€" 31 Dec. 1963)
  • Major General Janaka Perera - Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Army and Opposition leader of the North Central Provincial Council
  • Rear Admiral Frank N Quintus Wickramaratne - VSV- Chief of Staff Sri Lanka Navy (1989-1992) ( Also served as Training Commander of Naval and Maritime Academy )
  • Justice Mark Damien Hugh Fernando (27 February 1941 â€" 20 January 2009) Judge of the Supreme court (1985â€"2005)
  • John Anthony Emmanuel Amaratunga - Politician
  • Merrill Fernando - Founder of Dilmah Tea
  • Srinath Perera - Politician
  • Roshan Perera - Entrepreneur & youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company
  • Hiran Cooray - Managing Director of Jetwing Group
  • Anslem Perera - Founder and Managing Director Euroscan Exports (Pvt) Ltd and Mlesna (Ceylon) Ltd
  • Asoka Pieris - CEO of Singer Sri Lanka
  • V. Ranjit Page - Deputy Chairman Cargills (Ceylon) PLC
  • Joseph C. Page - Director Cargills (Ceylon) PLC
  • Jonathan Alles - CEO of HNB
  • Sanjeev Gardiner - Chairman of Galle Face Hotel Group and Ceylon Hotel Corporation
  • Annesley Malewana - Sri Lankan Musician
  • Ashley de Silva - former Sri Lankan cricketer and the current CEO of SLC
  • Chaminda Vaas - former Sri Lankan cricketer
  • Angelo Mathews - Present Sri Lankan Test Cricket Captain
  • Thisara Perera - Sri Lankan Cricketer
  • Dimuth Karunaratne - Sri Lankan Cricketer
  • Dhanushka Gertha Perera - Sri Lankan Rugby Player
  • Norton Fredrick - Past Sri Lankan Cricketer pre-test status era
  • J. P. Chandrababu - Famous Tamil Cinema Actor of Tamil Nadu, India
  • Nihal Jayasinghe - Former Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the UK
  • Chris Nonis - Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the UK
  • Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka - Diplomat, Political scientist and an author. He served as the permanent mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations at Geneva from 2007 to 2009. Thereafter he was the Consul General of Sri Lanka in Switzerland
  • Roshan Ranawana - Sri Lankan Cinema Actor
  • Bingumal Chandrasekara AKA Killer Bee - Sri Lankan Musician
  • K. W. Devanayagam - former Cabinet Minister of Justice, Cabinet Minister of Home Affairs, Member of the Ceylonese Parliament for Kalkudah 1965â€"1989


External links

  • Official website
  • Official Old Boys Union Website

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