Alumni Affairs

About the Alumni Oriole

The official web site of the School is This is an unofficial web site serving St Mary's alumni.  It's not even the official web site of St Mary's Alumni Association.


In 1995 I visited Jivraj Nazareth (1969) in Australia.  The conversation drifted to Abu, and remarkably, with no beverages to blame it on, we started to sing from the 1967 operetta Ali Baba and the 40 Black Sheep.  “Tramp tramp tramp,” “Stay ladies stay,” “When Hassarac has the sack.”  The memories came flooding back.  We'd caught the Abu bug.

Back then you could type Bombay into an Internet search engine and get a couple of hits, but Abu didn't bring up anything relevant.  My brother Vivian (1968) had some web space available.  We pulled out old photographs, recalled lyrics of anthems, listed maybe 100 names in the directory, and in late 1996 launched the SMS web site on AOL. Here's what it looked like.

Within months, word had spread.  Alumni around the world were catching the Abu bug.  One chap heard the chapel clock on Audio, and got up and headed to Abu — from New York. Aloysius (1951) started to compile a list of addresses.  Br Noel (1979) heard about the site (oops!  we hadn't informed the Brothers) and he had someone key in the rolls of graduating classes since 1914, taking the directory from a couple of hundred to nearly 3000.  Ulysses (1982) sent in about 30 photographs.  Marlon (1984) set up a do-it-yourself registration form.  With the increased maintenance demands, I moved the files to my own domain.


With growth has come heightened expectations.  I've recently had offers of donations to help finance the site, as well as questions about my powers of representation, term of office, salary from the Brothers, etc. Here's the scoop:

  • The site hangs off my corporate hosting service, at no cost.  I gratefully decline donations towards site maintenance.  I do solicit contributions in content and effort, directed towards the interests of alumni or the school.
  • My efforts are rewarded by stories of rediscovered friendships and reunions. The best to date is of cousins (ca 1951) who were separated as children during WWII, and reunited after about 50 years, through this site, and by dogged work of dedicated alumni. Another good one is an alum's dad's army medals that were stolen, and recovered.
  • The initiative for the site came from us, not the Brothers.  The school crest and name are used without formal authorization, but it's fair to suspect we have the Brothers' blessings. The suggestion of fund raising came from several alumni.
  • I claim no authority of any sort, but do exercise reasonable editorial liberty in determining content.
  • As long as this site is considered useful, I'll try to keep it going.  But others should feel free to do a better job, to launch branch pages, other activities, etc.

How can you contribute?

  • Spread the word about the site
  • Update the rolls: see Directory
  • Send in content: photographs, articles
  • Program/host branch pages of special interest — there are already a couple of other SMS sites, accessible from the Links page.  Contribute your HTML/Java/Perl, photography, design/layout skills, whatever.  Send in your ideas.  For example, Marlon Menezes (1984) wrote the script for on-line registration.  Good man!  We need more of that.
  • Volunteer more generally

Reflections on 25 years, and the SMS un-AA

It's the year 2021 as I add this update. The Abu Alumni Oriole has been around 25 years. It's a good time to look back, to share some things I've learned about alumni associations and volunteer organizations more generally, to recognize a few outstanding people, and maybe to offer some tips to those who feel inclined to act on their Abu bug.

Let me say first that I would not have hosted the Oriole for 25 years if it wasn't an absolute blast. Reuniting cousins, having medals come back to a family — that's over the top of any expectations. There's more than that. Back in the 1960s and 70s, the hallway between refectory and chapel (now between the small dorm and big dorm) was lined with framed pictures of the classes from the 1950s. As a 9 year old, I used to look at those photos with awe. Grown men. Well, for 25 years I've been in close touch with those very men, chatted on the phone, visited their homes, enjoyed meals together. They're good friends, and you could hardly distinguish schoolmates from classmates. I've met some real gems, their support means everything, and I'm grateful.

Another perk has been the contact with other alumni groups, at CB and other schools. The most impressive is SJOBA, the St John's Old Boys Association at St John's, Chandigarh. They organize an annual car rally. They were doing it 25 years ago and they're doing it now. In 2020 it was a 450 km course, and this 25-page book of regulations gives you a sense of scale and thoroughness. Goethals in Kurseong had an AA headquartered in Delhi, and one of the membership benefits was group rate life insurance. So these are pretty organized shops.

How has the SMS alum body performed by comparison?

Keep reading but here's a spoiler up front. SMS has four anthems, has had multiple AAs, and still has multiple alumni web sites. There isn't a central authority and a grand poo-bah, but things get done, and events are well subscribed and memorable. It's organic rather than org-charted. The power of spontaneous volunteerism is enormous, and I recommend that any volunteer group give this management approach a hard look.

Besides this Oriole, two companion web sites have been around nearly as long, hosted by Ashley D'Souza (1972) and Ainsley Priestman (1969). Honorable mention to the authors of several others: Jude Pereira (2009), Ulysses (1982) and Marlon (1984) Menezes, Matthai Philipose (1988) (whose site may have predated this Oriole), Ashley Rodrigues (1982), Rickson Rodrigues (1993) and Sunil Noronha (1978). There are others who created meeting places on social media platforms. None of the hosts claimed a title other than webmaster, lowercase. Anyone is free to start a new initiative, web-based or not. There's no pecking order; we're peers.

Pat O'Meara

Datch D'Souza

Edi Alva

Ashley D'Souza

It's not just web sites. There are the more traditional alumni associations (AAs), some formal, some not, and AA-like activities. The 1968 Abu Oriole reports on one, headed by Robert Smith (1931) that brought together 42 alums at a meeting in Bombay. Frank John Dias (1969) spearheaded an initiative about 1987, to raise funds for equipment for Our Lady of Salvation School, the Brothers' school in Bombay. In the early 1990s, Pat O'Meara (1946) broadened the scope beyond SMS, put out a series of newsletters entitled Raj Connections (Vol 1 No 1, Vol 1 No 2) — impressive showcases of desktop publishing for the era, by the way — and organized get-togethers in the UK. Up to this point, these initiatives involved, among other things, printing material, buying and licking stamps and envelopes. Hard work and some expenses.

In 1998, now into the e-mail era, Aloysius “Datch” D'Souza (1951) launched the most ambitious effort yet: registered a non-profit organization in Bombay and ran it for 20 years. This was a “proper” AA, with membership applications, fees, secretary, treasurer, bank account: all the trimmings that come with non-profit status. There were also a few fund-raising initiatives through the 2000s and 2010s, led by Bob Amore (1957), Frankie Dias (1973) and Alan Jobard (1982), and an off-campus public service project led by Edi Alva (1967) to build toilets for the poor in Abu. There have been reunions large and small in multiple countries. About 2013, an AA was formed in Abu.

This is certainly an incomplete list of alumni movers, let alone benefactors, and there have been anonymous initiatives too.

Nothing against car rallies and insurance, but let's take a step back and focus. What are alumni trying to achieve, and what's the best way to get it done?

  • Obvious stuff #1—Nostalgia. Reunions, homecomings.
  • Obvious stuff #2—Gratitude. Fund-raising, advice, influence, that make the school look good. In 2013 the Brothers, led by Erle Miranda (1975), held an event in Delhi, trying to funnel AA giving to a national level, in support of more generic causes that they might guide. Byron Pereira (1983) represented SMS.
  • Less explicit but underlying it all: Communication. With the school. With each other. Collaborative thought. Just put alums in touch and magical things happen. It doesn't need to be pre-scripted. Senior semi-retired alums have offered to mentor younger buddies. Ashley Rodrigues (1982) launched a business-oriented forum, a sort of LinkedIn for Abuites.

It's immensely gratifying to see the variety of ideas and execution. While some may lament that SMS lacks a persistent organizational framework, I'd argue that it's a good thing, because individuals are free to innovate and to lead. With a quarter century of success on the web, and a much longer run in so many other ways, our loose partnership formula has been pretty darn productive. The amorphous concept is so worthy that I'd give it a title: the un-AA. Un, not anti.

Which raises an interesting debate: is an AA a help or a hindrance? My first beef with AAs is that membership implies non-membership (recall set theory), i.e. exclusion. How can any alum possibly be defined as a non-member? The second big red flag boils down to egos, within and outside. At two different schools I came across competing AAs, each vied to be anointed as the “official” AA, and the school administration was called upon to pick a side. At one school the conflict flared up while planning their centenary, maybe the losing AA boycotted, and it was ugly. The reasons for those conflicts can be summed up as diversity. Alums differ. Age, achievement, geography, culture. At one extreme there are retired grandpas with long careers behind them, in India and abroad; at the other extreme are youth who haven't had their first shave yet. There are alums in big cities where AAs can be larger, versus those from the local area who are in closer touch with the school — the way things are evolving, that latter group is gaining power. It's a challenge to unify this diversity under a single umbrella while also keeping everyone's egos well nourished.

Sometimes you do need an association. You'll never organize even a 5 km bike rally without a team effort. It takes management genius, creativity and adaptability, universal goodwill and incredibly hard work to build a sustainable organization. SJOBA could write a book on that. Are there realistic goals of alumni, that demand that structure? Or could 80% of the goals be achieved with 0-20% of the paperwork? Do AAs have to be persistent, or can they come and go in response to a need du jour? Could multiple AAs co-exist, serving different sub-groups and needs, at different times, all with the school's blessings?

As we look to the future, I offer this advice to our future alum doers: By all means join the AA, or an AA, if one exists, enjoy it and support it. But don't feel limited by the charter or agenda. If you have a good idea waiting to be executed, and a streak of leadership, then take your cue from our motto, Promite Vires: Put Forth Your Strength. The men featured above did precisely that. If necessary, invoke what's sometimes called the Jesuit Principle of Management: It is better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission. Lace up your football boots, don't forget the shin guards, and good luck! [The Abu Alumni Oriole and editor hereby disclaim all liability.]

— Val