It is a responsibility that sits lightly on his shoulders. Occupying a post that has been held by some of the pioneers in providing well-rounded, liberal education in this part of the country, R.W. Alexander Jesudassan, principal of Madras Christian College, East Tambaram, presents a sense of confidence and continuity that is expected from the head of an institution steeped in history.
Professor Jesudassan was Head of the Department of Zoology before being made principal, at a time when the institution was on the threshold of an important landmark — of stepping into the 175th year of its existence. He spoke to K. Manikandan on the occasion.
What were the aims and missions of the founders of MCC?
MCC provides liberal arts education to the youth of the country. The mission of MCC revolved around academic excellence, spiritual vitality and social relevance.
What were the changes that came after MCC shifted to Tambaram?
MCC saw a large campus of nearly 400 acres of scrub jungle in Tambaram in 1937. Arts and science faculties started expanding and specialising; hall of residence, large sports and games facilities, adoption of villages around MCC such as Selaiyur, Irumbuliyur, Mappedu were new ventures initiated in Tambaram.
How does the college management ensure that the mission of the founding fathers is continued?
The college management continues to encourage introduction of new academic courses, community development through starting of a community college in the future in Tambaram, relevant courses for in-service people and economically-challenged groups through continuing education. Expanding and improving the infrastructural facilities, empowering the downtrodden are some of the needs envisioned by the founders in their mission for the college.
With a modest strength of a little more than 1,000 students a few decades back, it has now grown to 6,000-plus. How did this transformation take place and what are the important reasons?
More students prefer MCC for it liberal arts education. Alumni prefer sending their children to MCC. Offering self-financing courses since 1999 and infrastructural development and academic innovations have attracted students from all over the country and abroad, which has resulted in this transformation.
What was the objective behind starting self-financing courses and how has it helped the college management?
Any new course that is to be offered in the college has to be on the self-financing mode. This has in turn enabled the college to identify and offer courses that are in demand from the student community and relevant to them. Finance resource generation and mobilisation have since been possible and this again is being ploughed back for the various developments of the college and its affiliated units.
What is the relevance of arts and science colleges, especially MCC, at a time most young men and women opt for professional courses?
MCC, despite the mushrooming of different professional colleges offering contemporary courses, continues to attract students from all over the country and abroad for the distinctive feature of designing study which would result in the development of a holistic personality with adequate leadership qualities. As a result, MCC-ians stand out among the rest of peer groups from other colleges.
What has been the contribution of MCC to women's education and empowerment?
Since 1939, women have been admitted to MCC. The number has risen from a meagre 39 in 1939 to about 45 per cent in the college now. The aided stream has attracted more women than men in the recent past. Many women who have studied at MCC have become civil servants in India, and a good number of MCC alumnae occupy position of eminence in the world. Women of MCC are visible in almost all walks of life.
What is the contribution of former students to the college?
Alumni of the college have contributed to the academic, infrastructural and amenity enrichment on the campus. Acclaimed as the oldest alumni in India, started in 1890, the fellowship and camaraderie they maintain as MCC alumni group in different parts of the world keeps them connected to the MCC.