In Appreciation of “Our Sam” … The Samarasinghe Family Collective

It is with profound sorrow that we share with you the passing of Prof. Stanley (Sam) Samarasinghe on Monday, Nov 22, 2021. Our husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, teacher, colleague and friend fought his illness with relentless courage and undiminished fortitude for several years. His enthusiasm to live his life to the full did not abate. Except family and close friends, no one else had even the slightest inkling that he was battling an invasive enemy within.


Sam was born in Daulagala, Sri Lanka to Stanley and Padma Kumari Samarasinghe on June 7th 1945. The oldest of 8, he attended Dharmarajah College in Kandy, Sri Lanka. He earned his first degree i n Economics, graduating at the top of his class, from Peradeniya University in Sri Lanka. Losing his father when he was only 24 years old, Sam selflessly devoted his energies to guiding his seven younger siblings to educational and professional success, becoming their surrogate father. He went on to earn a PhD in economics from Cambridge University in England, where he also married Vidyamali (Vidya) a fellow alumnus at Peradenrya and at the time a fellow PhD student at Cambridge. Sam and Vidya returned to Sri Lanka where they raised their two sons, Mevan and Ranmal. Sam went on to become a senior lecturer in Economics at Peradeniya University. He was also a founding director of the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES), Kandy. In 1989 Sam and his family emigrated to the United States, where he became a Professor of Economics, eventually teaching for many years at Tulane University. But what is most remarkable is that he continued his abiding interest in the many facets of Sri Lankan life, especially in education and politics and of course his beloved hometown of Kandy. Sam lived a life of service, which connected his teaching, community engagement, and professional contributions in the USA and Sri Lanka. From leading Tsunami relief programs in 2004, to taking his American PhD students to Sri Lanka for special projects, to working with the Lions Club of Senkadagala, helping underprivileged schools in Sri Lanka, to promoting democracy and the free media by starting the first regional newspaper in Sri Lanka, to organizing programs advocating cooperation and harmony among the races, Sam’s interests and projects were diverse and of high impact.

Sam was happiest when he was meeting new people, always the one to strike up a conversation with a stranger and make a new friend. In his many travels, Sam visited countries in every continent except Antarctica (he didn’t like the cold!). Sam was preceded in death by his mother and father and his brothers Mahinda and Ananda. He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Vidya; his children Mevan (Erin) Samarasinghe and Ranmal Samarasinghe (Vanessa); his grandchildren Eliya, Noralie; brothers Lal (Kumari), Shantha (Malkanthi); sisters Malkanthi (Nimal), Shiranee (Pani), Hemamali (Gamini); sister-in-law Dushyanthi; and many wonderful friends.







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2 responses to “In Appreciation of “Our Sam” … The Samarasinghe Family Collective

  1. Laksiri Fernando

    May Sam Rest in Peace!

    He was a peaceful person by nature while very vocal in his beliefs. Apparently, Sam had been born in the same year as me (1945) and had entered the University of Peradeniya one year before me. We studied at the same Department of Economics, however, majoring in different subject areas. He was a Senior, particularly during the ragging period! We had some other similarities and differences. We were in the same debating team without any conflict. He belonged to DemSco while I belonged to the StudentFront. He joined the staff in 1967, and I came back to Peradeniya in 1972, after a stint at Vidyodaya. We were at the same Takaran building at the beginning, meeting on and off. Particularly during and after 1983 communal riots we came much closer on the issues of ethnic reconciliation and peace. I and my wife, Winiitha, also had close contacts with Vidyamali Samarasinghe. We lost contact in 1984 when I left for WUS Geneva. During one of his travels to Australia from the US, somewhere in 1994 I believe, he contacted me, and we met briefly in Sydney. I also met him at a seminar in Colombo thereafter organized by the ICES. I believe he was the promoter of my participation. I have not met him since then or contacted him, me pathetically being a poor communicator.

    Perhaps we might meet again somewhere in the future!

    Laksiri Fernando

  2. Pingback: Honouring and Grieving Sam Samarasinghe: Academics in USA | Thuppahi's Blog

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