Today our College completes one hundred and forty-three years.
When College was established the purpose envisaged by the founding fathers of the College was that young people in this part of the world should get the best education possible. To this end they gave their everything and over the first forty years proved that education can make a positive difference not only in the lives of individuals but could also help in the development of a country. The idea gained momentum, more young men joined the College (women came later) and several important landmarks indicated that St Stephen’s College was an institution like no other on several counts; for one, the breadth of knowledge imparted in College led to a deeper respect for the Truth, best exemplified by C F Andrews who declined the post of Principal of the College on the grounds that it was now time for an Indian to head the institution; yet another telling aspect of the College was its insistence on sports and outdoor activities being good for students; again, efforts were made by the teachers of the College to encourage education and support those who were unable to finance their education with scholarships, either from abroad or from their own meagre funds. College led the way then and that those pathbreaking qualities are in our DNA is being proved even today.
College is the sum total of all of its past. College made a huge contribution to the freedom movement and the fact that Principal Rudra, Gandhiji, C F Andrews and Rabindranath Tagore met and discussed matters literary, social and political in College is significant. Our archives, now being refurbished, hold many a document which tell of many such instances where important discussions and decisions were taken. The archives also hold precious records of how the vision and leadership of Principal Mukerji led to the formation of the University of Delhi in 1922. The difficult but important decision to move the College from Kashmeri Gate to the present location, the constant struggle to find funds to support education, the College’s unstinted efforts to support the policies of the government including opening up admissions for foreign students – all of these are recorded in the library and archives of the College affording a window on how education grew in pre and post Independent India. Our international institutional collaboration goes back to the nineteen sixties. Each of those decisions make College what it is today – forward thinking, resilient and always student-centric with an unwavering focus on excellence and service.
After many decades India is going through a restructuring of the educational system from primary to higher education. It is a welcome move and St Stephen’s College continues to play its role to make education better – by constantly reworking methods and platforms from where learning can happen through both big and small steps. Big moves like SCAL and College’s efforts to help the government of India through international fellowships like the Young leaders Neighbourhood-First programme, or by continuing to give the world (and not just India) leaders of stature through the regular courses of study. College’s contribution to the world is incomparable! – If you are not from College just check online how many leaders of repute there are from St Stephen’s College, in India and globally, and you will understand the veracity of my previous statement.
As College moves forward into another year let humility guide us and let our focus on excellence and service through education be strengthened further.
Ad Dei Gloriam!
Prof John Varghese
1st February, 2024