Demise of Emeritus Professor Y. Rasanayagam

Demise of Emeritus Professor Y. Rasanayagam

It is with profound sadness that the Department of Geography announces the demise of Emeritus Professor Yoga Rasanayagam, who was the former Head of the Department of Geography and the former Dean – Faculty of Arts, on 26th April 2021. Professor Rasanayagam had an outstanding career as a noteworthy Scholar, researcher, lecturer, administrator, as well as an inspiring teacher, and mentor.

Professor Rasanayagam was a past student of Hindu Ladies College and Methodist College, Colombo 03. Soon after graduating from the University of Peradeniya in 1963, she entered the university system as a staff member. She joined the staff of the University of Colombo on 26th March 1965, and obtained her doctorate from the University of Cambridge, UK, in 1972.  Her areas of specialisation were Industrial Geography, Regional Development & Planning, Women in Development, Environment, and Disaster Management. Professor Rasanayagam was a much-respected administrator at the University of Colombo. She served as the Acting Head of the Department of Geography, on a number of occasions, from 1977 to 1997. She was appointed as the Head of the Department of Geography in 1997, and provided leadership to the Department in this position until 2002.  Professor Rasanayagam also served as the Acting Dean, of the Faculty of Graduate Studies for several short periods in 1997. She became a Professor of Geography in 2001.

Professor Rasanayagam holds the honour of being appointed the first female Dean of the Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo in 2002. During her tenure from 2002 to 2004, she served the Faculty with great commitment and dedication. Professor Rasanayagam also functioned as the Acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo on several occasions. As an outstanding scholar in her field, Professor Rasanayagam obtained several fellowships such as the Commonwealth Academic Staff Fellowship, UK, in 1981/82; NUFFIC Staff Fellowship -1986; Netherlands Fellowship – 1987; UNDP Fellowship – 1989; and AAUW International Fellowship – 1990/91.

In addition to the above, she also obtained several awards as a distinguished scholar. In 1989, she was awarded the British Council Grant and obtained the Gold Medal in WIM Professional and Career Women Award in 2014. Professor Rasanayagam was also awarded the Long Service Award from the University of Colombo, for her dedicated services to the University. Professor Rasanayagam held a reputation for excellence in research and teaching both regionally and internationally. She also served as a member of several national and international Committees, Advisory Boards, and Societies.

Emeritus Professor Rasanayagam was bestowed the Chancellorship of the Eastern University of Sri Lanka by His Excellency the President of the Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka in August 2011. Over the years, Professor Rasanayagam continued to provide her expertise to educational institutions, particularly in the tertiary sector. Professor Rasanayagam was also an accomplished artist in the field of Carnatic music: as an accomplished vocalist and Veena player who qualified as a radio artist in the mid-50s, she performed regularly over the radio for a number of years.

Emeritus Professor Rasanayagam will be remembered for her outstanding contributions to the Department of Geography, the Faculty of Arts, and the University of Colombo, as well as her many services to higher education at national, regional, and international levels. Those of us who were fortunate to have worked with her, attest to her dignity and integrity.