Fr. Arthur Lai Fook (5th Jul 1919- 19th Apr 2013)
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Arthur Eugene Anthony Lai Fook was born on July 5th 1919. He grew up in Port of Spain and attended Nelson Street Boys’ R.C. School (Columbus School), Tranquillity Intermediate School and Iere Central High School. He entered St. Mary’s College in 1930 to pursue his secondary education. He won the Jerningham Gold Medal and an Open Scholarship in 1937.
He taught at his alma mater for one year and then left for France to spend a year in spiritual retreat, testing his calling to the priesthood. In 1939, he enrolled in the University College, Dublin (National University of Ireland) where he attained a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Mathematical Physics (1942) and a Master of Science in Mathematics (1943), both with First Class Honours. He also obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Mental and Moral Philosophy and a Higher Diploma in Education (1944).
He began studies in Theology in 1945 at the Holy Ghost Seminary, Dublin and continued at the Cantorial University of Fribourg, Switzerland for the Baccalaureate in Theology. He was ordained a priest and became a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost in 1947.
Upon his return to Trinidad in 1948, Fr. Lai Fook taught at St. Mary’s College and was Junior Dean of Studies (1948-1958). He remained there as senior mathematics teacher until 1962, then lectured in mathematics at the University of Nigeria (1962-1964) and at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine campus (1964-1966) before returning to St. Mary’s College.
He became the college’s principal in 1971 and retired in this position seven years later. However, he continued teaching mathematics first on a contract basis then voluntarily in order to lead students to continued successes in their examinations. In 1990, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago awarded him the Chaconia Medal Gold for his contribution to education.
Fr. Lai Fook notes that the pre-conceived idea that, ‘mathematics is difficult’, is a mind block to students who make no effort to apply themselves. His advice to youngsters is, “there is no substitute for hard work.”
He passed away in 2013.