Perfect 1: A record yet to be broken
Editor’s Note: In a recent news story about John Gabriel Pelias, the math major who graduated from the University of the Philippines in April with a general weighted average (GWA) of 1.016, there were three others named among the highest grade achievers in UP’s history: Exequiel Sevilla, who had a GWA of 1.0 upon completing his Bachelor of Science in Commerce degree in 1927, Emerenciana Yuvienco Arcellana (1.02, AB Political Science, 1948) and Gertrude Gwendale Baron Reinoso (1.03, BS Biology, 1982). What has happened to these best and brightest of students? We thought we’d track them down and see if, for them, high grades made a difference in their careers. The first in this series is on Exequiel, written by his daughter Aida Sevilla-Mendoza, who happens to be a columnist for Inquirer’s Motoring section.
WHEN MY father, Exequiel Sunico Sevilla, was still alive, he never bragged about his 1.0 average at the University of the Philippines, where he graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Commerce in 1927.
That flat 1.0 average, registered 84 years ago, has yet to be equaled at the UP.
When I was a high school then college student struggling with algebra and geometry, the feat did not quite matter as much as his helping me with my mathematics homework.
But now, more than two decades after he passed away (he died in 1985), I am able to appreciate his scholastic achievement at the state university and brag about it.
My cousin, retired Supreme Court Justice Adolfo Azcuna, sent me a text message recently that his mother (my father’s sister) used to tell him that UP would just draw a straight line down Papa’s report card to record his flat 1.0 grade in every subject every semester, every year.
Papa’s reputation preceded him that, even before his graduation from the university, he had been appointed an insurance examiner by Dr. Emeterio Roa, the first Filipino actuary.
After UP, Papa was sent as a government scholar to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He became friends with young lawyer Lorenzo Tañada, who was traveling on the same ship to the United States and headed for the same school. Tañada would become a senator and one of the country’s most respected statesmen and nationalists.
After graduating from Ann Arbor with a Master of Science in Actuarial Mathematics degree in 1929, Papa trained for one year at the United States Life Insurance Co. in New York City.
Upon his return to Manila, Papa, one of the first four Filipino actuaries, was appointed actuary of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner. In 1930, he became an associate of the Casualty Actuarial Society.
He left government service in 1933 to help establish the National Life Insurance Co. in Manila. In 1937, President Manuel L. Quezon appointed him to the first board of directors of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).
After World War II, Papa gave the best years of his life to the National Life Insurance Co., first as actuary, then as general manager and finally as president and member of the board. During this time, he also taught math at UP, Far Eastern University and the University of the East.
After his retirement in 1979, National Life retained him as a consultant.
Papa was a member of the American Academy of Actuaries and the International Actuarial Association, a corresponding member of Instituto de Actuarios Españoles and a fellow of the Actuarial Society of the Philippines.
He was among the 19 professionals who founded the Philippine Statistical Association in 1951 and was elected the first vice president. He became the association’s president in 1957.