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Principal,S.B.College,1991-96

Principal,S.B.College,1991-96

Principal (1991-96)

Let me mention my participation in some of the major organizations in which I worked while I was working as the principal of the college.

IFCU

At the IFCU meeting in Toulouse, France, in 1991, I was elected a member of the Executive Council as a representative from Asia. It was decided at the first meeting of the Executive that their next meeting should be held in India. As I had no experience of their previous meetings, I thought that I would get the help of Fr.Kottaram, the former Principal of Mar Ivanios and a former member of the Executive. But his sudden passing away put all the responsibility of holding the International Conference on my shoulders.

Even though Bangalore and Cochin were considered as sites for the meeting, in the end I favored to have the meeting in Changnacherry itself as it would then give the participants an idea of the vibrancy of the Catholic faith in Kerala.

I had the meeting arranged on the third floor of the newly completed Research building. Our staff helped a lot in getting the place ready for the meeting.

The inaugural session was held at the Kavukattu Hall and a lot of the principals, managers and teachers from Kerala were present at the meeting. His Eminence Cardinal Padiyara, Abp.Gregorios, the Speaker of the Kerala Assembly, Abp.Powthil along with president of the IFCU, Fr.Duttari(who has been later appointed the Bishop of Quito,Equador) addressed the gathering.

The front of the Hall was decked with flag posts carrying the flags of the participant countries. The president of Notre Dame, Fr.Malloy, the Presidents of various Catholic Universities in South America, Japan , Indonesia, the USA were present at the Conference. Some of them were put up in hotels in Changanacherry and the rest were put up at Kottayam.

The Deepika was kind enough to publish a supplement for the Conference.

The delegates were taken for a boat ride though Kuttanand lakes and later they were taken to Kurisumala Asharam. On the way back, they visited St.Alphonsa’s tomb at Bharanaganam.

The municipality of Chanaganacherry and the Bishop’s house, Palai arranged a special reception for the participants. The Assumption college arranged an open dinner reception for the guests. Fr.Malloy addressed the students of the Assumption college.

It was a good gathering and all left with great feelings of appreciation. Later, addressing the presidents of Catholic universities in the U.S, Fr.Malloy remarked that the going to Kerala was like going to Ireland as the visit revealed to him the depth and strength of the Catholic faith in Kerala.

I am very grateful to many members of the staff for their help in coordinating many events of the meetings. I have to mention specially Mr.Jose, a member of the non-teaching staff, Prof.Ruble Raj,Prof.George Thomas,Prof.Raju Kuttickal,Prof.George Sebastian , the priests on the faculty etc for their great help in organizing a meeting of this kind.

As a member of the Executive Council of the IFCU, I was invited to attend their meetings in Lisbon,Quito and at Notre Dame.

While at Quito, we could visit many of the old churches in Quito whose ceilings were decked with gold which were built in the 16th C. When I was looking at the marvelous gold ceiling of one of the churches in Quito, Fr.Malloy, the President of the Notre Dame University remarked to me : “ Father George: you have churches going back to early Christian centuries.” That was an acknowledgment of the Apostolic origin of the Christian faith in Kerala which he came to understand during his visit to Kerala.

While in Quito, we did visit some of the Indian villages and the small churches around which the houses of the villagers were built. One of the surprising things at one of the fairs in the villages was that when we asked for the prices of some of the village made clothes, one of the girls took out a calculator form her pocket and told us the price in dollars. That showed how technology had entered the lives in very remote villages.

While in Lisbon, we were able to make a pilgrimage to Fatima which was one of my unfulfilled dreams. I wanted to visit Fatima during my European tour while on my vacation to Europe during the days when I was pursuing my doctoral studies in the US in the late 70s.I could not do it because I was prevented from passing through Spain at the border from France as I did have not have the transit visa to pass through Spain. Hence , I felt really happy during my stay in Lisbon.

We stayed in a beautiful hotel from where we went to the Catholic University every day for the meetings. We also visited some of the old churches in Lisbon like Fort St.George monastery etc. We were invited for a reception at the family home of of the Aux.Bishopp of Lisbon who was the Rector of the Catholic University of Lisbon. It was in a village but the dinner was very lavish. His whole family was there to greet us.

The General Assembly of the IFCU at Notre Dame was a great success .In fact it was at the meeting at Changanacherry that the venue of the Assembly was changed from Lebanon to Notre Dame. I was in a way responsible in helping Notre Dame University becoming the venue of the meeting.At the conclusion of the meeting, Fr.Malloy, the President of the Notre Dame praised the conciliatory skills that I employed during the sessions.

Fr.Malloy showed his appreciation of my interventions later by asking me to be the main celebrant of the Eucharistic celebrations in one of the main days .I did not realize then that I was going to be a main celebrant along with Cardinals ,Bishops and rectors. I was not prepared before hand for a great sermon. Only after reaching there and looking at the program , did I realize that that it was going to be a great celebration. God gave the confidence to do everything perfectly. I started my homily with a few lines from Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased…”I knew then with my literature background that it would prove to be a great introduction! It really helped me to gather my thoughts on the passage from the Gospel. I also mentioned the inquiry I received from the young man whom I met in one of my train trips. He was an MIT product .He told me that he was searching for spiritual meanings in life and wanted to know what the distinctive feature of Christianity was.

After all these trips I would stop in Washington D.C. to teach a summer course in Comparative literature at the Catholic University of America.

I kept my contact with the US and the Catholic University because of the advice and help of Dr.Nemionau ,one of my Professors at C.U who did not want me to lose my Green Card status.

What a beautiful piece of advice he gave me. Otherwise, I would have to go for visa for every trip I made to the U.S.

My participation In IFCU got me a lot of friends internationally. I used the occasion to plead for more active collaboration between the Catholic Universities in the developed world and those in the under developed countries.

AIACHE

At the triennial meeting of the AIACHE at Bangalore in 1993, I was elected the President of the Association. Non-Catholic and Catholics were elected presidents alternatively. I was elected at a time when it was the turn of the Catholics. Working as the President of AIACHE gave me a great opportunity to interact with the principals of the Christian colleges in India and also enabled me to be part of the team to implement various policies that would improve the academic standards of our colleges .It was during that time that we were able to meet the President of India ,Dr.Shankar Dayal Sharma and apprise him of the various dangers involved in some of the bills before the parliament of India concerning the minorities.

The executive meetings of the AIIACHE were held in different parts of India which helped us to come into close contact with the working of the best colleges in India.

Principal’s Council of Kerala

In 19993 , I was elected the President of the Principals' Council of the Private colleges of Kerala. As the President of the Principals' Council, I was able to work in close collaboration with the Principals of Kerala in pleading for changes for the improvement of higher education in Kerala.

Secretary of the Inter-Church Council of Kerala and KCBC

As the Secretary of the KCBC Education commission , working with Abp.Powathil, I was able to formulate the educational policies of the Catholic Church in Kerala in the area of education. We had to oppose several times the policies of the Govt. when they were infringing on the Constitutional rights of the minorities.

The Inter-Church council was a wider body incorporating all the Christina denominations, formulating the policies in the area of education in Kerala. Under the auspices of the Inter-Church Council several large gatherings of the public were held to highlight the importance of protecting the rights of the minorities in the field of education.

I was also working as a research guide for doctrinal candidates in English Literature.Fr.Joseph Vattakalam and Prof.C.E.Thomas worked towards their Ph.D. under my guidance.

I was very determined to improve the academic standards of our students. S.B. college, being one of the top colleges in the country attracted a large number of very bright students from all across the state of Kerala.One of my immediate tasks was keeping the students academically high while they were at college.

After discussions with the staff, we organized an Academic Excellence Program where all the students coming with more than 90% of marks were invited to join to improve their knowledge in science subjects. The teachers who volunteered to teach came early in the morning for special classes for the students. I could see the change in the academic atmosphere right away.In the Pre-degree exam that came after the introduction of the course, our college was declared the first in the colleges under Mahatma Gandhi University for having got the highest number of first classes.

One of the memorable events in the first years of my Principalship was the organizing of a science exhibition and an arts festival in order to collect funds for the construction of a new building to accommodate new courses that would be forthcoming in the coming years.

I knew then that with the changes happening in the country, this would be most probably the last science exhibition that would be organized under the auspices of the college. I was very intimately involved in the organization of a previous Science Exhibition when Fr.Maroor was the Principal. I did not want to lose that experience.

The Science Exhibition turned out to be a huge success. With thousands of high school and college students visiting the campus, the days became very busy. It continued for two weeks. A lot of students and the faculty were involved in the organization of the Exhibition. Within those two weeks thousands of visitors came to the campus. The media too gave enough publicity.

The inauguration of the Exhibition was done by Sri. Patil, the Honorable speaker of the Lok Sabha. He praised the students for their sense of discipline and decorum.

The campus was a beehive of activity in those days.

The Arts Festival was also a great success. Prof.Scaria Zacharia took the initiative of organizing all the cultural events and meetings. Many writers and authors were invited for different functions.

With the money collected through the science exhibition, we were able to garner the seed money for the construction of a new building. My intention was also to start hotel management courses in the new building.

Along with the improvements of the academic atmosphere of the college, I was also interested in encouraging the artistic and athletic talents of our students.

I encouraged the Director of the Athletics Department to scout talented students to build up our athletic teams. Within no time we were able to become the first in all the athletic competitions of the University. Our students thus did well in athletics, games as well as in studies.

We supported the activities of the Arts club and they were able to compete well in the artistic and cultural competitions conducted under the auspices of the University.

So when the Government decided to award a prize for the best college in the state, it came to St. Berchmans’ college. Thus, the prestigious Shankar Award was given twice to the college.

The college did also start many study centers like the Durrell Centere, Kamala Das Study Centre etc and encouraged the interactions with literary authors and scholars.

It was during this time that the foundation stone for Prof.Ulahannan Mappila Center for research was established. Dr. Joshy was responsible in starting the center and developing it.

The granting of MBA to the college was one of the crowning moments in this saga of academic improvements of the college.Raja Giri college and S.B.college were the only two colleges in Kerala that were allowed to start MBA first in the state. The newly constructed building was immediately put to use for the M.B. A and thus was born the Bechmans’ Institute of Management. It was during this time that the Berchmans’ Institute of computer studies was established.

All the Post Graduate students were encouraged to take a course in computer applications.

Even before the starting of the M.B.A, the college did start a diploma course in management.

Another important development during this period was the publication of a research journal known as the SB Academic Review. The starting of the Review helped the teachers to publish their research articles. It also helped to bring in more UGC grants to the college. The Review was also supported initially by the AIACHE.

It was also possible to start the publication of the college bulletins and to establish a language lab for the development of the communication of our students in English language.

Our students were also placed in the first ranks in many subjects at the University exams.

The completion of the Research Center which was started during the Principalship of Rev.Dr.Joseph Maroor was another major event.The research Center was one of its kind in the history of the affiliated colleges in India.

We were able to start research programs in many science and arts subjects.

In short during the five years of my work as the Principal of the college, I was able to accomplish a lot in the academic and extra curricular well-being of the college with the grace of God.

The Christian atmosphere of the college was also maintained well at the college There was always a greater sensitivity to the needs of the poor and needy. The college took care of the housing for the poor hostel employees of the college. It gave free noon lunches for poor students. It was also happy to help poor students who could not afford to pay the fees.

The needs of those who worked for the college were always attended to. Even now after more than 15 years after I left the college, some of the poor workers write to me for help.

We had also regular faith and morals classes for the students of the college. When many of our Catholic colleges dropped such courses, I was very particular to retain them as it sustained our Catholic identity. There were also daily masses at the college chapel which was attended by students staying at the hostels.

We had an annual Adoration day for which students and the staff would come batch by batch.

Every year the academic year started with a mass of the Holy Spirit.

During the five years, I was the Principal, annual retreats for the staff as well as the students were held regularly.

I am really thankful to God for having given me the opportunity to function so well as the Principal of the college.

The 25th anniversary of my ordination was also held at the college. The anniversary meeting was presided over by Alexander Mar Thoma Metropolitan.

I bade farewell to the college on March 31st,1996.It was at the peak of my career that I left the college at the retirement age of 55.



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