The principal of M.O.P. Vaishnav College, who will retire on Thursday, was given a grand farewell by students, colleagues and eminent educationists
For someone who never stepped inside a college as a student, Nirmala Prasad, outgoing principal of M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women, compensated well by spending 40 years of her professional life in various colleges.
After four decades of service as a teacher and administrator, Ms. Prasad, who will retire on Thursday, was given a grand farewell by her students, colleagues and eminent educationists on Tuesday.
Ms. Prasad recalled how she had to struggle to get a B.Com and then an M.Com degree. While she was studying, in the late 60s, not a single college in Tamil Nadu offered courses in commerce for female students, she said. “All my studies were through correspondence. I never stepped inside a college as a student but spent 40 years of my life in colleges as a teacher and principal.”
In 1997, after a 21-year stint in Ethiraj College, where she had established the commerce department, Ms. Prasad joined M.O.P. College for Women as the principal. “I had two choices — to go for a high-paying job, or fulfil my dream of starting a model institution. I chose the latter.”
As the principal of a private college, she pointed out, she had to compete with Stella Maris, Ethiraj, and other government-aided institutions which were charging only Rs. 1,500 as fees. “We had to charge almost 10 times the amount. The challenge was not only to create a brand but also to attract good students, not just the ones rejected by other colleges.”
“When I joined MOP, my daughter and the college were both five years old and both needed my constant care. I chose to give the latter more attention,” she recalled.
Speaking at the event, Michael Aruldhas, president, Madras University Teacher’s Association, said Ms. Prasad had always supported attempts to root out corruption from the University.
Harikrishna Jhaver, chairman, M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women, recalled the time when the proposal to start the college was placed in front of them and was met with mixed reactions. “We had many difficulties, the land was gifted, not donated, and the area was less than the norm. We had to go to the courts but we won every battle in the end,” he said. He added, under Ms. Prasad, the college had improved over the years.
“From allowing admission of NRI students to starting a range of skill-based courses, and giving importance to physical education, she has done everything to take the college to where it is now.”
Besides regular courses, the college offers cake architecture, web designing, anchoring and photography, writing for FM radio, media presentation, TV news production. These courses set the institute apart, Ms. Prasad said.
The college also offers a finishing school course that teaches students about managing households, handling marriages, children and striking a work-life balance. “I don’t want my students to be rankers alone. They need to be successful in life,” Ms. Prasad said.
Her retirement was not without controversy as the University of Madras had insisted she retired in June, owing to norms on the maximum age for principals. Ms. Prasad, however, said she had managed to get an extension. “It is against the rules to ask a teacher to retire when the academic session has begun or is in progress,” she said.