Coupling love and success | Daily News


Coupling love and success


* Professor of Electrical Engineering, University of Moratuwa (1969 - 2002) (33 years)

* Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (1974 - 1978)

* Vice Chancellor, University of Moratuwa (1996 - 1999)

* President, Institutions of Engineers, Sri Lanka (1992 - 1993)

* Director, Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technology (1989 - 2000) (10 years)

* Chairman, Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT) (1999 - 2014) (15 years)



* First class in Sinhala from Peradeniya University

* The Order Of The Rising Sun Gold Rays With Neck Ribbon

* Ruhunu Putra Sammana

* Vibhavi Literary Award

* Fulbright Fellowship (Visiting Fellow, Princeton University USA.

* Japan Foundation Fellowship (Visiting Fellow, Taisho University Japan)

* Professor Emeritus University of Moratuwa

* Former Vice Chancellor and Dean of Engineering and Architecture, University of Moratuwa

* Past President, Institution of Engineers, Sri Lanka

* Former Chairman and President, Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology

* Appeared on the panelist of judges on Presidential and Sarasaviya awards.


To have and to hold for 52 years, Professor Samarajeewa Karunaratne’s and Professor Kusuma Karunaratne’s one is where goals have been accomplished and soaring aspirations have come true while being firmly established in their marriage. Daily News spoke to the Karunaratne couple who demonstrates that behind a great man there is a great woman and behind a great woman is a great man.

In their marriage of 52 years, the two have excelled in their chosen fields which is full of outstanding achievements. Speaking to the Daily News, they both shared their insights on life and marriage and also discussed their achievements.

“In a relationship each one may have different ideas. I see that younger couples feel compelled to end the relationship due to differences of opinion. But I feel this must not be done. Having got married and starting to live together, they must have patience. Whatever mistakes happen it must be understood that people have different characters and a husband and wife need to get used to each ones thoughts and attitudes. This is the advice I need to give young couples. Because when they see these differences they say to themselves – ‘this is not the right marriage for me’. Pacification is important along with understanding and patience,” advised Kusuma Karunaratne.

Her husband Samarajeewa Karunaratne quipped saying that he always advises his students and others that love at first sight can be dangerous. However beneath the exterior of humor was sage advice.

“For people like Kusuma and I, love is forever. I understand that in the Western World it is different. They divorce many times. When starting a relationship you need to be fairly careful. I think when choosing a partner his or her educational background is very important. I feel that it is a requisite. ‘Falling in love’ at first sight not knowing her background and personality happens in society, yet I feel that it is necessary that your relationship needs a firmer foundation,” Samarajeewa Karunaratne said.

Samarajeewa Karunaratne felt that they have not only excelled as individuals but have raised two children who are pillars of society. Both Royalists, their children are in the fields of engineering and computer science and are now respected citizens. As parents, he points out they have done well.

“Both of us are very proud of our sons. They were very obedient as children. We guided them and they studied diligently. We are an academic family and their achievements make us proud. Along with their wives and children, they are leading a happy life,” said Samarajeewa Karunaratne.

Family picture 

Kusuma Karunaratne feels that parents need to guide their children but should not be over protective. Children need to be given freedom in their lives. There needs to be a limitation when it comes to control and protection.

“I think for us it was love at second sight!! I was a permanent staff member of the Department of Sinhala, Peradeniya University. I was working as a lecturer. During that time from Colombo, the Engineering Faculty moved to Peradeniya, and Sam played a part in the changes. So he moved to Peradeniya as a lecturer of Electrical Engineering. So during the evenings, they used to come into the Faculty of Arts. And one day Sam came with a mutual friend of ours who was a lecturer in the Department of Pali and Buddhist teachings. So we exchanged a few words in Ramanathan Hall. That was the first day we saw each other,” explained Kusuma Karunaratne.

Then it was a matter of fate! The two got another chance to meet each other and this second meeting was the day that led to their marriage. Those days at Peradeniya, when the female students went on educational trips, they have to be chaperoned by a female lecturer. And that day it was Kusuma’s turn to do it. Even though he did not belong to the Arts Faculty, Samarajeewa Karunaratne turned up that day with his friends and the two of them travelled in the same bus and started chatting from the beginning to the end. That was when the two got to know each other. So it was actually love at second sight.

Samarajeewa Karunaratne felt that though he and Kusuma belonged to different fields, they have a shared passion for achievements and respect for each ones achievements. This too is one reason why their relationship is so stable.

“My Eminence in Engineering is the highest award in Professional Engineering. Kusuma has a D. Litt (Doctor of Letters) as an academic qualification. I have the Doctor of Science D.Sc. In addition to this, both of us received the position of Professor Emeritus of University of Moratuwa,” pointed out Samarajeewa Karunaratne.

Kusuma Karunaratne recalls a very important episode in their lives when they both achieved something significant on the same day.

“Recently something important happened. I do not think that in the University System of Sri Lanka has a husband and wife both delivered two convocation addresses in one convocation/ graduation ceremony on the same day. The Kelaniya University Faculty of Graduate Studies had their convocation in July. Sam delivered his address in the morning session and I delivered it in the afternoon session,” explained Kusuma Karunaratne.

One achievement that is very dear to Kusuma Karunaratne’s heart is The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon (The Japanese Emperor’s Award). The reason for this is because it is the highest honour awarded to a civilian.

“My husband and I share certain achievements, and others are limited to our chosen fields. For me one milestone is getting admission to Peradeniya. Getting a first class in the Sinhala Department was another milestone. Another achievement that I am proud of is obtaining the post of Acting Vice Chancellor, University of Colombo. Both Sam and I have both served as council members in Universities. My husband’s main field is science and engineering. My field is the Arts, Literature and Culture. Together we listen to songs, watch films and we appreciate poems. Sam, likes to read Sinhala books – classical and modern. I must not forget to say that my husband is the one who in 1967, introduced the first digital computer to Sri Lanka. He was in California on a Fulbright Scholarship. He was asked to accept the job of Date Processing Manager at the State Engineering Corporation,” added Kusuma Karunaratne.

Samarajeewa Karunaratne was the Chairman of Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT) for 15 years (1999 - 2014). He was instrumental in the creation of this specialized institute for IT Graduates.

“We were not producing IT and Computer Science graduates in sufficient numbers. We needed thousands not hundreds each year.

Universities could not do it alone, so wanted a specialized institute.

So the institute grew and grew. Now the intake is 1,500 – 1,800 per annum. It has expanded to other disciplines as well – engineering, architecture and quantity surveying. Now we have a student population of about 8,000,” added Samarajeewa Karunaratne. 

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