The Mahatma Gandhi University will remain indebted to the late T.M. Jacob for his instrumental role in bringing the varsity into existence.
Jacob was elected as a member of Legislative Assembly following his victory at the Kothamangalam constituency in the general election of 1982 and was, subsequently, sworn in as the Minister of Education in the new UDF cabinet that was headed by the late K. Karunakaran.
Jacob had then pursued to establish a new affiliating university at Kottayam with an intention of decreasing the examination work load of the two other universities in the state during that time, viz. the University of Kerala and the Calicut University. The proposed university would also encompass the colleges situated in the districts of Ernakulam, Kottayam, Idukki and Pathanamthitta.
Following the promulgation of the Gandhiji University Ordinance (No. 34 of 1983) issued by the Government of Kerala, the university, which was initially christened the Gandhiji University, had come into being on October 2, 1983 and had fittingly coincided with the Gandhi Jayanthi day. In the message contributed to the Silver Jubilee Souvenir 2009 of the university, Jacob states that the university was dedicated to the ‘Father of the Nation’, hence the name.
The varsity was later formally inaugurated by the then President of India Gyani Zail Singh on October 26, 1983.
The new varsity, which was formed by bifurcating the University of Kerala, had 68 colleges and nearly 70,000 students. A.T. Devasia was appointed the first Vice-Chancellor of the university. T.K. Koshy, who was initially appointed as the Special Officer in-charge of the project of establishing the varsity, was earlier made its Pro-Vice-Chancellor. K. Jayakumar, the Additional Chief Secretary of the present Government, was appointed as the Registrar and N. Babu as the Controller of Examinations.
When contacted, Dr. Devasia recounted his personal experiences with Jacob during his stint as the varsity’s premier Vice-Chancellor until January 1987. “Jacob took great pride in the achievements that were posted by the University. One such moment had occurred when Jacob had stipulated the deadline for publishing the results of degree courses as June 22, 1986. As it turned out, of the three Universities in the state that had functioned back then, it was solely the Gandhiji University that had managed to stick to the deadline. This had brought him immense pride,” he said.
Jacob was also regarded as a visionary. “He had dealt significant importance to automation during his governance. He considered that the computerisation of the available facilities at the University was inevitable. Although many of his such decisions have been met with opposition from various quarters, he remained solid and stood steadfast to what he perceived was best for the University,” says Dr. Devasia.
The former Minister has had his hallmark stamped during the transition of the University right from when it began operations from an office in a dilapidated structure at the campus of the Baker Memorial School, to another rented building opposite the District Collectorate and ultimately, the property owned at Nalpathimala which was later renamed as Priyadarshini Hills where the University has been headquartered.
In a condolence message, University Vice-Chancellor Prof. Rajan Gurukkal points out that Jacob has been the ‘guiding spirit’ behind the formation of the university and condoles that his demise was a great loss for the varsity. “He was actively involved in furthering the missions of the University till his last breath. T.M. Jacob has been an able administrator, an excellent parliament, who has contributed immensely to the education sector among others,” he said.