“The actions of a great man are an inspiration to others. Whatever he does becomes standard for others to follow.”
That passage from The Bhagavad Gita best represented Ravisangar “Ravi” Apputhurai, says Gillian Edwards, manager of media technology facilities at Centennial College.
Edwards was speaking at a memorial service held March 15 at the college’s Story Arts Centre in honour of Apputhurai, who died suddenly the previous week. His professionalism and kindness became the standard for those in his life, Edwards said, whether they were family, friends or colleagues.
Apputhurai, 48, was a stable presence at Centennial College, where he spent over 30 years as a member of the security team, ensuring the safety and well-being of the people in the school and the area.
Whether it was helping students get access to studios or find the right room for class, he was always there for those in need, according to various speakers at the memorial service.
“When I found out that Ravi had passed away it really saddened me because he had contributions in my time here,” said Said Ezzati, who graduated from the college’s broadcasting program in 2003.
Ezzati talked about a side of Apputhurai that not everyone at the campus may have seen.
“I think we were lucky, because we were in (the broadcasting program),” he said. “(Apputhurai) was the unassuming star of our productions… We’d all talk about how professional and friendly he was, but he was also really funny.”
When it came to his job, Appurthurai’s dedication shone through.
“When Ravi was here on security, I felt secure,” said Malcolm Kelly, co-ordinator of the sports journalism program at the Story Arts Centre.
“He was so good at his job that I once saw him stop a potential fight by standing in between the people and just looking at them and they walked away.”
Even in the face of scrutiny and discrimination, Apputhurai maintained a calm and professional demeanour.
Nate Horowitz, dean at the Story Arts Centre, remembered a time many years ago when a woman from the neighbourhood came to the campus and showed Horowitz images of her 25-year-old son.
She was distraught. Her son had died of suicide and, in a state of emotional turmoil, she berated Apputhurai with racial epithets.
Instead of engaging in a verbal fight with the woman, he stood his ground and said nothing to her, which caused a change in her behaviour and led to several apologies later.
Seeing that reaction would shape how both Horowitz and the woman would view Apputhurai.
“From that day on, the neighbourhood woman saw Ravi as a caring, professional person,” Horowitz said. “Ravi always welcomed her when she sought shelter at the campus from her own deep traumas.”
When it came to the job, Apputhurai demonstrated what being a security guard was about: protecting the people around you and making them feel secure. Whether you were a student or a member of staff, he always made sure that you could feel comfortable walking the halls of the Story Arts Centre.
Journalism professor Ellin Bessner talked about an incident last November, when a member of the public sent her a threatening letter. The anti-Semitic slurs and hate in the letter were sparked by her book, Double Threat, which is about Canadian Jews who served in the Second World War. She had to report the incident to police near campus, despite living far from the area.
After this, Apputhurai did all he possibly could to make Bessner feel safe at the school.
“Ravi spent weeks locking the doors of the journalism lab, because we always prop it open, and following me from class to class and telling me how I can make myself more safe in this building,” she said.
“He literally made me feel so much more protected while my husband was out of town for a month. Ravi made me feel safe, and I miss him so much.”
Apputhurai’s kindheartedness created strong relationships among his colleagues, as he could trust these people with personal details about his life.
Centennial College media professor Jennifer McIlroy recalled a moment when she and Apputhurai were observing an art piece based on the riots of the G20, which resonated with Apputhurai’s own life experiences.
“Ravi came by and he stopped for the first time and looked at it,” she said. “He didn’t talk for about one minute. He just kept looking at it. He said, ‘I’m so glad I escaped that.’
“He didn’t understand and didn’t know that it was about the G20 here in Toronto. What really struck me at that point was just how big and rich and full his life was and what he had seen. So we had a very quiet, personal moment together talking about that.”
McIlroy described the people at the campus as a fabric, and with Apputhurai’s absence, “the fabric of Story Arts Centre just became thinner.”