June 6, 2011

Message to the Alumni

Dear Fellow Stephanians,

 This is to thank all of you for the wonderful experience that you made possible last evening (5.6.2011). I must say how encouraged I feel on account of the positive energy the meeting generated. I have no doubt at all that this marks the dawn of a new era in the life of our cherished Alma Mater. 

As President Ved Marwah exhorted us at the beginning, let us talk less and do more. Or, let us walk the talk. (But let us talk to each other even as we walk, for talking is the outworking of the love we share. Let us talk about what we are doing for the College). We now have a somewhat nationally representative Executive, though its 'national' character needs to be enunciated and consolidated a little more. The College is very fortunate in having a President and a Vice President who, apart from distinguishing themselves in serving the nation in key portfolios, are also widely respected authors. I attach special significance to this, as we need to pay attention to the enhancement of the intellectual and academic stature of the College in the days ahead. I intend to do all I can in this respect, both personally and institutionally.  Incidentally, the out-going Vice President, Mr. Probir Sen, too is an exceptionally lucid writer. I have posted his piece on IA on the College website. (All alumni are invited to share their writings with the College and they shall be posted similarly.) I report with pride and pleasure that Mr. Sen has very graciously agreed to be the (Hony.) Adviser to the College on Administration and Development. In this new capacity he will serve as the link between the AA-AEC and the College. I welcome him to be part of the journey of this great institution through history.  

All of you are in the Executive for your merit and distinction. You hold diverse awesome resources of intellect and experience. We also have a mix of experience and youth, ensuring continuity and change. The gender balance is a bit skewed, though. But we can address this over time. Our principal merit is that we love our Alma Mater with the whole of our heart. That given, everything else will take care of itself. 

As most of us realize, and are concerned about, the alumni are, as of today, a trifle fractured. This is largely because the College, over a period of time, ceased to be the point of cohesion and coherence in the perception and priorities of the alumni networks. This happened by default. In the absence of a shaping and shared sense of purpose vis--vis the College, various alumni sub-groups came up, losing sight of the larger matrix. This is something that, I hope, the new Alumni Executive Committee will address effectively. The problem is not that there is fragmentation. The problem is that there is no unifying sense of shared purpose. I seek your help and guidance in stitching together the frayed edges of this beautiful and invaluable tapestry called the alummni. Please reach out! Our bonding and belonging together as Stephanians cannot be compromised for smaller loyalties or clique formations. 

The positivity that pervaded the first meeting of the AEC needs to be consolidated and enlarged. At a time when negativity is threatening to be a national epidemic, we need to create an alternative ambience. Thank God, it is possible and happening! 

From here on, I shall recede progressively and expect the Executive to create the trajectory for its engagement with our Alma Mater. As a textbook on obstetrics states (about the quality of an obstetrician), I must develop the virtue of "sensitive watchfulness and masterly inactivity". I would only submit to all of you that periodic meetings are necessary, especially at this stage, to energize the Executive and to make the College community also feel the reality of a new era dawning on the College. 

We are not just an Executive. We are participants in a silent revolution! We are not a committee but a body of human beings who voluntarily commit ourselves to a great movement called St. Stephen’s that began before all of us set foot on planet earth. The hallmark of a movement is its capacity to bring about positive and proactive changes. It is within our reach to pioneer a meaningful alumni engagement with its alma mater in benchmarking excellence in higher education. In this process please don't get dispirited by propaganda blitzkriege, much of which issues from sheer ignorance about the ground realities in College which is being exploited by a handful of disgruntled elements. As General Moshe Dayan of Israel (the famous 6-day war, 1967) used to say, "We let others assume that are duds and prove that we are not!"  The best response to mockery or misrepresentation is fruitfulness. Remember the old poem, "Those who came to scoff, remained to pray!" Why wouldn't it happen in St. Stephen's? But the mockers have to be enabled to "come" which is the challenge before the Executive. From a distance people can only throw stones. And those who know nothing except this pelting exercise will prefer to stay at a distance; for distance is the very womb of the paranoia of pelting stones. Mercifully this applies always, in every instance, only to a tiny handful of people who go about recruiting unsuspecting camp followers, if only for want of self-confidence and as a palliative to their insecurity and sense of guilt that nag them. The rest are taken for a ride through misrepresentations and terminological inexactitudes.  

Plunging into the developmental throes of the College is now no longer an optional luxury. It is a survival issue for the institution. The Alumni are the hope of the College. In the days ahead, I propose to engage with this issue from an institutional perspective and see how best to write this into the life, service and responses of the College. I need your help and guidance in this as well. 

All of you are busy people! But only the busy have any time. In the years ahead, you will have to donate your time sacrificially to the College. Time is a function of love. And time is needed from you not merely for attending all Executive meetings but also, beyond that, in transferring the vision we shall develop together to as many of our fellow Stephanians as possible. You can be effective, if you put your heart and soul into it, which I am sure you will not withhold from your Alma Mater. 

Finally, a word of gratitude to those who have accepted gracefully to share the burden of being office bearers on our collective wish and request. To Shri. Ved Marwah, Dr. S. Y. Quraishi, Bobby Kewalramani, Vijay Chibber and to Rohit Bansal, a big "Thank You". May you have a wonderful and joyous time serving our Alma Mater zealously and fruitfully as I am sure you will. 

I wish to place on record my profound gratitude to Mr. Probir Sen for being the Vice President for a few years and to Mr. Arvind Malhotra for looking after the Alumni Association and Executive for a very, very long time. I am sure that we will continue to have their help and guidance.

 The College loves you.

Ad Dei Gloriam! 



Rev. Dr. Valson Thampu
Principal and Patron of the Alumni Association



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