Born and raised in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Kavinda Arthenayake ’90 & MS ’92, is one enthusiastic Raider. Kavinda heard about Southern Oregon State College through a high school friend, applied, then received an admissions letter directly from Admissions Director Al Blazak. A few months later, Foreign Student Advisor Bob Bennett picked him up at the Medford Airport. Kavinda had never seen SOSC’s campus – that lack of knowing the campus would change however, in a few short weeks!
“On my first day, I walked into my academic advisor’s office, Dr. Dennis Varin. That meeting turned out to be a life-long relationship of mentorship and friendship. My first class was Speech 200 with Dr. Karen Shafer. That marked the start of an amazing academic journey that provided opportunities for involvement in student leadership at an institution where faculty and staff truly care about students,” said Kavinda. From the start, he dove into campus life and became heavily involved in the International Students Club, where he was first treasurer and then president and helped lead events, which facilitated a better understanding of other cultures, across campus. Mentored by the likes of Dean of Students Steve Flynn, Director of Auxiliary Phil Campbell, Director of Housing Wayne Schumacher, and President Joseph Cox, he blossomed as a student and was also elected to the ASSOSC student senate. There he served and chaired the all-important Incidental Fees Committee. In addition, he along with the student senate, led the effort to change the college name from Southern Oregon State College to Southern Oregon University.
Fall of 1987, Kavinda was introduced by Bob Bennett to Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Loren L. Sawyer and his wife, Sandra Sawyer, as part of the Friendship Family Program connecting international students with local families. “That introduction became a beautiful and meaningful friendship. Sandra Sawyer wrote the officiating script and Judge Sawyer officiated my wedding and marriage to Anissa (Brossia) ’92,” said Kavinda. Bob Bennett also introduced him to American football at Raider Stadium in 1987, where the Raiders hooked him on football for life!
In 1990 during his senior year, Kavinda was awarded the Robert Bennett International Student of the Year Award and the Victor Mills Student Leadership Award, capping an impressive and deeply connected run as an undergraduate student. He stayed on to earn a master’s degree with an emphasis in international economics and business where Professors Michael Haynes and Bryon Brown, tutored him on the fine points of economics. “My academic journey at Southern Oregon was memorable. It brought me to where I am today. The small class sizes and ability to connect with professors who truly cared about my academic success, made a difference in my life,” he said.
From graduate school, Kavinda moved to Wisconsin to become the Assistant Director of Conference Planning at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, where son Kyle was born. But he longed for Ashland and returned to campus to become SOU’s Director of Alumni Relations, where he stayed on for four years. During that time, his daughter Lauren was born in the Ashland Community Hospital. Lauren was named after Judge Loren Sawyer. In 2004, he and his family moved on to Oregon State University. There, he became the Director of Conference Services and Commencement for the next 15 years.
With both of their children deciding to attend colleges on the east coast, Kavinda and Anissa made the big move to Rhode Island. He took the position of Director of College Events and Conference Services at Rhode Island College, a public college in Providence. “I always say that my parents gave me the foundation of integrity and hard work. But it was SOU that built upon that foundation and made me everything I am today,” he said. Kavinda Arthenayake: the epitome of a dedicated Raider for life.
Learn more: Rhode Island College