Institution History

 

 

 

FACETS OF HISTORY

St. Thomas’ College, Trichur, is the oldest Catholic College in Kerala, is the first College to

have been established by diocesan clergy in India, is as old as the formal institution of the

earliest of the Catholic Syrian Dioceses in India and is older than all the Universities in

Kerala. It was founded as an educational institution in 1889, in less than two years after the

formation of the Vicariate Apostolic of Trichur, was raised to the rank of a Second Grade

College in 1919, was the earliest First Grade College in the erstwhile princely state of Cochin

in 1925 and is, at present, one of the largest and most reputed of the Arts and Science Colleges

in Kerala. At the national level, the St. Thomas’ College has been accredited with a B + +

stature in 2004 by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council, which is an

autonomous organization instituted by the University Grants Commission.On 8th January

2011 The College got reaccredited for a further period of five years with CGPA of 3.58 on a

four point scale at ‘A’ Grade securing third position in Kerala, on the basis of the physical

verification (2010 September 27 to 29) and study report by the NAAC Peer Team led by Prof.

K.M. Kaveriappa, Former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Mysore. All students’

political organisations and all their activities inside the college campus have been banned

with effect from 01-09-2012. The UGC granted Autonomous Status to the College from

13.06.2014 onwards and Sri. Oommen Chandy, the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Kerala

formally declared the same on 16.09.2014 at a solemn function held here. UGC has given

“College with Potential for Excellence” (CPE) status to the College with effect from

01.04.2016 to 31.03.2021. On 01.07.16 Mar Andrews Thazhath laid the foundation stone for

the Centenary Campus at Cheroor in the presence of Adv. V.S. Sunilkumar, the Hon'ble

Minister for Agriculture, Kerala State.On 16th December 2016 the college reaccredited for a

further period of five years with CGPA of 3.4 at 'A' Grade on the basis of physical verification

(2016 November 5, 6 & 7) and study report by the NAAC Peer Team led byProf. (Dr.) B. G.

Mulimani, Former VC, Gulbarga University and BLDE University.

The establishment of this institution by the end of the 19th century shows that the importance

of education as an instrument of nation-building was being realized by the Catholic Syrian

community in India and the spirit of nationalism was getting deep-rooted in the minds of the

Indians. It was also a period of an intensive process of horizontal growth within the Syrian

Catholic community, coinciding with the foundation of new churches and schools. Thus, the

“St. Thomas’ College” was founded in 1889 by the first Vicar Apostolic of Trichur, the Rt.

Rev. Adolphus Edwin Medlycott, PhD, who was formerly Professor of Rhetoric at the

Propaganda College in Rome and was the author of India and the Apostle Thomas (London:

David Nutt, 1905) which is a lasting monument of his scholarship in the history of the Syrian

Christian community that he was to lead in its formative years of institutionalization. It was at

first only a Lower Secondary School, primarily intended for resident ecclesiastical students.

Subsequently, it became a High School in 1894 under the managership of Fr. Zambanelli, an

Italian missionary. The naming of the school as “College” by Dr. Medlycott at the very

inception of the institution, and that too, after St. Thomas the Apostle of India was, therefore,

symbolic of the mission the school was to shoulder in the subsequent years. The Rt. Rev.

Medlycott purchased the present site of the College, appointed Fr. Paul Alappatt, PhD as the

Manager and Rector of the institution in 1895 and

prepared plans to house the “College” in what he

referred to as a “handsome structure”. It was the

Rt. Rev. John Menacherry, the first Indian to

become the Vicar Apostolic of the Vicariate of

Trichur, in 1896, who constructed the first

building for the institution at the present site and

shifted the “College” to that site in 1901.

It was Fr. John Palocaren, M. A. (Edin.) - a

member of the staff of the School and

subsequently Headmaster of the School in August

1918 - who planned and piloted the “College Scheme” along with Prof. Joseph Pettah, the

Chief Professor of History & Economics at the Murray College, Sialkot in the Punjab

(subsequently Professor of Economics & History at the St. Thomas’ College, Trichur,

University Reader in Economics of the University of Madras, Chevalier of the Diocese of

Trichur and Member of the Legislative Council, State of Cochin), Bishop John Menacherry

and Fr. Francis Vazhappilly who was the Manager of the School. As part of an attempt at

canvassing the College Scheme in the press, Prof. Joseph Pettah published articles in an

English Weekly of Kerala emphasizing the need and explaining the feasibility of a College in

Trichur. Funds for the College project were collected initially by the floating of a grand raffle

and subsequently by a Diocesan levy to which all the parish churches of the Vicariate of

Trichur contributed their one-year’s income in six annual installments. On the basis of the

report of the Commission for local inquiry at the School - consisting of F. S. Davies Esq., Rev.

Fr. Carty S. J., and His Highness Appan Thampuran - the University of Madras gave formal

affiliation in Group III in April 1919, when the institution was already 29 years old in its

service to education, and thus the St. Thomas’ High School formally became a Second Grade

College with Fr. John Palocaren as the first Principal. The Junior Intermediate class was

opened on 8 June 1919 with 96 students and 5 teachers, and in August 1919 the inaugural

ceremony of the St. Thomas’ Second Grade College was held under the presidency of His

Highness Sir Sri Rama Varma, the Mahârâjâ of Cochin.

The progress made by the College since its inception has been gradual but spectacular. The

College rose to the status of a First Grade College in History Group in March 1925. With the

formation of Universities in Kerala, the College was affiliated to the University of Kerala in

1957 and to the University of Calicut in 1968. It was the St. Thomas’ College that offered

most of the modern academic disciplines for study at graduate and postgraduate levels for the

first time in central Kerala. The importance and stature commanded by the St. Thomas’

College in the intellectual and cultural history of Kerala in the context of the birth of

modernity in Kerala have been well recognized by most students of modern Kerala History.

The history of the College as an educational institution during the past one century has been

inextricably interwoven with the history of the Catholic community and of central Kerala.

However, the infancy of the College was days of struggle and hardship, of successfully

The Maharaja of Cochin, Fr. Palocaren

and Fr. Edakkalathur

combating the distrust of the public and the

step-motherly attitudes of the authorities. It

is worthwhile in this context to recollect

the yeomen services rendered by those

patrons and members of the St. Thomas’

College community who took painstaking

labour in planning and implementing the

affairs of the College. It is a long list of farsighted

scholar-Bishops and scholarpriests,

Professors and students, and

laymen, whose memory has become

almost epic in the minds of the people of the region. This list includes the founder-Bishop Rt.

Rev. Medlycott, PhD, Patron-Bishops Mar John Menacherry, Mar Francis Vazhappilly, Mar

George Alappatt, PhD, Mar Joseph Kundukulam and Mar Jacob Thoomkuzhy; Managers of

the institution Rev. Frs. Zambanelli, Paul Alappatt, PhD, A. J. Ukken, Matthew Edakkolathur

and Monseigneurs Antony Pudussery, Paul Chittilappilly, Iype Irimpen, John Maliekkal,

Paul Chittilappilly and Ignatius Chalissery; Rt. Rev. Dr. Msgr. Bosco Puthur, Rt. Rev. Msgr.

Joseph Kakkassery, Mar Andrews Thazhath, Principals of the College Msgr. John Palocaren

and Rev. Frs. Joseph Kallingal, Ittyera Mampilly, Thomas Moothedan, Nicholas Anthikad,

Paul Alappatt, Dr. Antony Porathur, Dr. Devassy Panthallookkaran and Professors

P. Sankaran Nambiar, Chev. Joseph Pettah, T. O. Mathew and A.M. Francis.

The College has had a very strong scholastic tradition that spans over a century. The

meticulously rigorous standards prescribed by the College for its academic community and

the stature of the College as one of the premier educational institutions of higher learning in

Kerala attracted the best of talents into its teaching and student community. It can count

among its past staff and students eminent scientists, literary critics, educationists, jurists,

spiritual leaders, administrators, statesmen and others whose contributions to the intellectual,

cultural and political life of our nation will ever be remembered. Scientists C. S.

Venkatesvaran, R. S. Krishnan who was faculty at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore,

and a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Kerala, K. Gopalan who was the former

Director of the N.C.E.R.T. and the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Cochin, and

Prof. E. D. Jemmis, a recipient of the coveted Santhi Swaroop Bhatnagar Award; literary

critics Prof. M. P. Paul (who has been commemorated by the Sahitya Akademy, New Delhi,

by publishing a monograph on him in English and several Indian languages in the series

entitled Makers of Indian Literature in 1985), Prof. Joseph Mundassery (former Minister for

Education, Kerala and Vice Chancellor of the University of Cochin) and Prof. P. Sankaran

Nambiar who had initiated and led the world of literary criticism in Malayalam; Jurists

Joseph Thaliath, the one-time Puisne Judge of the High Court of the princely state of

Travancore, M. S. Menon, the former Chief Justice of the High Court of Kerala, M. P. Menon

and G. Viswanatha Iyer of the High Court of Kerala; spiritualist and interpreter of Indian

scriptures Swamy Chinmayananda, Christian Bishops Mar George Alappatt, PhD, Mar Iype

Irimpan, Mar James Pazhayattil, Mar Paul Chittilappilly, Mar Aprem, PhD and Paulose Mar

Paulose, PhD; statesmen Panampilly Govinda Menon (former Chief Minister of Travancore

T.K. Narayana Pilla, C.M. of Travancore - Cochin State

in the Annual Celebrations,1950

Cochin), E. M. S. Namboodiripad (the

first Chief Minister of Kerala), Mathai

Manjooran, C. Achyuta Menon (the

former Chief Minister of Kerala),

C. M. Stephen (former Union Minister

and the leader of the opposition at the

Indian Parliament), statesman and

diplomat A.M. Thomas (former Indian

High Commissioner to Australia and

Union Deputy Minister for Defence

Production), N. K. Seshan (former

Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and Finance Minister of Kerala) and Sri V.M.

Sudheeran (former Speaker, Minister of Kerala and Member of the Indian Parliament);

administrators T. M. Varughese I.C.S. (former Chief Secretary to Govt. of Madras), T.N.

Jayachandran I.A.S. (former Additional Chief Secretary to Govt. of Kerala and Vice

Chancellor of the University of Kerala) and K.M. Thomas I.E.S. (former Director of the

Eleventh Finance Commission, Govt. of India); eminent teachers of south India, Chev.

Joseph Pettah, Chev. C. J. Varkey (former Minister for Education, Madras), S. F. Nunez

(Member of the Legislative Council of Cochin), R. Narayanaswamy, Prof. A. Sreedhara

Menon (former Registrar of the University of Kerala, Editor of the Kerala State Gazetteers,

U.G.C. Visiting Professor, onetime President of the South Indian History Congress and a

National Fellow of the Indian Council of Historical Research), Prof. V. R. Subrahmanian (the

founder of the first association of private College teachers in Kerala and member of the

Syndicate of the University of Kerala), Prof. Joseph Kolengaden PhD (onetime Professor of

English in the University of Basra and Head of Department of English at the St. Joseph’s

College, Trichinapoly), Jose Mechery, PhD (an ex-Alexander vön Humboldt Fellow,

Universität München), V. K. Krishnan, PhD (noted mathematician whose Functional

Analysis has been published by the Prentice Hall), K.C. Shekhar (onetime Professor and

Head of the Department of Accounting & Finance, University of Zambia), Dr. K.

Radhakrishnan (ISRO Chairman), Chummar Choondal, PhD (folklorist and recepient of the

Indira Gandhi Award), Edmund Peters (the linguist), Chevalier George Menachery (the

Editor of St. Thomas Christian Encyclopedia and Thomapaedia), and P.C. Thomas (the

master-trainer of pre-medical and pre-engineering examinations); Sri. P. Ramadas, the

initiator of the neo-realist film world in Malayalam; and industrialist Sri Kochouseph

Chittilappilly of the House of V Guard and many others from different walks of life - to

mention but a few from a long list - were members of the St. Thomas’ College community at

some time or other and had their formation in or contributed to the intellectual traditions of

the College. They represented a wide spectrum of vibrant and eclectic intellectual streams

that constituted a live academic community.

The dimensions of the intellectual activity of the period as represented by the St. Thomas’

College can be perceived by taking a glance here at the variety and depth of the articles

published in the College Magazines of the 1920’s and 1930’s. The St. Thomas’ College

V. K. Krishna Menon, Union Defence Minister

Magazine was launched in 1925 as a chronicle of the

activities of College life and as a proper medium of

expression of the literary achievements of the

students. Under the editorship of such illustrious

Professors as Joseph Pettah, M. P. Paul, Joseph

Mundassery and others, The Magazine attained a

standing and repute of its own among publications of

the kind. The articles published in The Magazine

exhibited a remarkable awareness of the

contemporary intellectual and socio-political

realities and the deep insights into the subsequent

events in India. For the students of the intellectual history of modern Kerala, The Magazine of

the College forms an invaluable source to work upon on account of their pioneering character

and thematic innovation. Any account of the history of the College, to be as objective as

possible, should incorporate the substantial contributions that the College made to the growth

of Malayalam literature and various branches of the liberal arts through the forum of The

Magazine. The scholarly articles published in The Magazine during the period between 1925

and 1950 attempted a thoroughgoing critique of the British imperialist view of India’s past

and the British economic policies in India. These articles together constituted what can now

safely be regarded as a nationalist discourse that emanated from the St. Thomas’ College.

Another contribution of the College to literary Kerala and the Malayalam language was a

journal entitled Keralam under the editorship of Msgr. John Palocaren, Prof. M.P. Paul and

Prof. Joseph Mundassery, which fostered the language and literature of Malayalam in the

form of hundreds of research articles on literature, linguistics, literary criticism, biography,

history, political science and the various sciences. Though Keralam as a journal did not

survive long, it did attain reputation among scholars, men of letters and the reading public of

the time for the standards it set for itself and the contributions that it made to the spread of

ideas and values that were so essential for the growth of a democratized society and secular

culture in this part of India.

Apart from the contributions to intellectual and cultural fields, the College community has

responded positively to the problems thrown up by the processes of nation-building and

political life. When the Indian nationalist movement became a mass-movement under the

stewardship of Mahâtmâ Gandhi in 1919, the College was still in its infancy as a Second

Grade College. The ‘St. Thomas’ College Parliament’ in its inaugural session in 1926, passed

a resolution deciding to grant ‘Immediate Swaraj’ to India, though the Indian National

Congress was yet to resolve upon and declare complete independence as its goal first in 1927

and subsequently in 1929! Thus, within a period of eight years, the College was prepared to

welcome the Mahatma into its active and responsive campus. It was on 14 October 1927 that

Gandhi visited the College “ to receive the address of the Cochin students who also presented

him with a purse of Rs 501”. The mangalapatram submitted to Gandhi on that day by the

students of the College is proof of the dimensions, which the education and learning process

as proposed by the scholar-founders of the St. Thomas’ College took, and the directions to

which the College community wanted the rest of the intelligentsia to follow. The impact made

N. Sanjiva Reddy Hon. President of

India at the Diamond Jubilee

Celebrations, 1980

by the historic visit of Gandhi and his clarion-call

for participation in the anti-British struggle was

tremendous as could be seen in the subsequent

mobilization of manpower into the movement in

this part of Kerala. In 1931, members of the

College Union celebrated the birthday of

Mahâtmâ Gandhi, when fervent appeals were

made to the students to follow the ideals of the

‘half-naked fakir’. It is now pertinent to recall that

a good number of activists from central Kerala in

the cause of national liberation had their

intellectual formation in the College and, in this respect, the College has offered to some of

the veteran leaders of anti-British struggle in Kerala an early experience of Gandhi and the

charm of anti-imperialist struggle. Sri E.M.Sankaran Namboodirippad - then a studentmember

of The Magazine Committee - who left the St. Thomas’ College in 1932 to enlist

himself as an Indian National Congress volunteer, Sri S. Ramakrishnan, Personal Secretary

to Mahâtmâ Gandhi and Sardar Patel and a recipient of the Bharat Ratna Award, and Sri V.R.

Krishnan Ezhuthachan, veteran freedom-fighter - all of whom were students of the College -

did share the rising Indian nationalist fervour in the College. Incidentally, the willingness of

the St. Thomas’ College community to open up its doors for dialogue between the leader of

the anti-British struggle and the academic community of the College weakens the arguments,

cherished for long by a section of historians, to the effect that the Catholic Church was against

the burgeoning Indian nationalist movement. Moreover, the College provided a platform and

a community centre for free expression of ideas of the educated sections of the public of

Trichur on various contemporary and important events in the first half of the 20th century.

Since the upgradation of the institution as an affiliated College in 1919, numerous eminent

persons, academicians as well as statesmen and leaders of religion and society, have visited

the College and interacted with the College community. The former category includes His

Excellency Msgr. Edward Mooney, D.D., the Delegate Apostolic of India in 1926; Sir C. V.

Kumara Sastri, M. A. & B. L., the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court in 1926; Justice P.

Narayana Menon of the Chief Court of Cochin in 1927; leading Malayalam poets Mahakavi

Ulloor S. Parameshwara Iyer and Mahakavi Vallathol Narayana Menon in 1928; C. G.

Herbert Esq., I. C. S., the Diwan of Cochin in 1930; V. Subrahmania Iyer, the Retired

Registrar of the University of Madras in 1931; C. J. Chacko, PhD., Fellow of the Columbia

University in Political Science in 1932; Fr. Murphy S. J., M. A. (Oxon) of Loyola College,

Madras in 1933 ; Dr. P. J. Thomas, former Economic Adviser to Govt. of India in 1950 ; Prof.

C.D. Deshmukh, the Chairman of the U.G.C. in 1957; Dr. John Mathai, reputed economist

and Vice Chancellor of the University of Kerala in 1958; Sri Vyloppilli Sreedhara Menon,

noted Malayalam poet, and Sri Sukumar Azhikode, leading Malayalam literary critic in

1958-’59; Prof. Samuel Mathai, Vice Chancellor of the University of Kerala in 1964;

Sri. Gemini Ganesan, film actor, in 1963; Mr. Rober Caldwell, U.S. Consul in India in 1966;

Sri. K.P.S. Menon, well-known Indian diplomat in 1967; Mr. Farely Richmond, the Director

of Asian Theatres, University of Michigan in 1971; Sri K.J. Yesudas, singer and musician of

P.V. Narasimha Rao Hon. Prime Minister

of India at the Platinum Jubilee

celebrations, 1994

all times and the then Chairman of the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy in 1972; P.

Kunhiraman Nair, noted Malayalam poet in 1972; Justice Mr. Balakrishnan Eradi of the Hon.

High Court of Kerala in 1972; Sir L.A. Hill, Chief Educational Adviser of the British Council

and others. The more prominent among the latter category include Mahâtmâ Gandhi in 1927;

the Maharajas of Cochin in 1919 and 1935; Lord Irwin, the Viceroy who received a

delegation of the St. Thomas’ College community in 1930 at Trichur; Dewan Bahadur A.

Ramaswamy Mudaliar in 1935; T. K. Narayana Pilla, the Chief Minister of the Travancore-

Cochin State in 1950; Sri Panampilly Govinda Menon, the Chief Minister of Travancore-

Cochin in 1956; Dr. B. Ramakrishna Rao, the first Governor of Kerala in 1957; Sri V. K.

Krishna Menon, the Defence Minister, in 1957 and again in 1958; His Eminence Valerian

Cardinal Gracias, the Archbishop of Bombay in 1959; Mr. S.K. Patil and Mr. M.V.

Krishnappa, Union Ministers in 1959 and 1960 respectively; Acharya J. Kripalani in 1960;

Sri Humayun Kabir, Union Minister in 1961; His Excellency the Most Rev. Dr. James Robert

Knox, Apostolic Internuncio of India in 1962; Sri V.V. Giri, the Governor of Kerala in 1963;

Sri K. Kamaraj, President of the Indian National Congress in 1964; Mrs. Laksmi N. Menon,

Union Minister in 1964; Justice V.P. Gopalan Nambiar of the Kerala High Court in 1968; Sri

E.M.S. Nambuthiripad, the Chief Minister of Kerala in 1969; Sri. C. Achuta Menon, Chief

Minister of Kerala, in 1970; His Excellency Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, the President of India

who inaugurated the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of the College in February, 1980 (i.e., the

91st year of educational service of the institution); The Eminent Scientist E.C.G. Sudhursan

interacted with students in August 1981, Sri P. V. Narasimha Rao, the Prime Minister of India,

who inaugurated the valedictory functions of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations in January

1994; (i.e., the 105th year of educational service of the institution); the venerable Mother

Theresa who received a delegation of the College community in 1994. His beatitude Cardinal

Varkey Vithayathil, Major Archbishop of Syro Malabar Church, inaugurated the Navati

Celebrations, Sri. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Former President of India interacted with the students

of St. Thomas in 2008; and Padmasree Dr. K.J. Yesudas delivered the keynote address of the

valedictory function of Navati Celebrations in the precence of Sri. Vaylar Ravi, the Hon.

Minister of Foreign Affairs & Parliamentary Affairs, Govt. of India on 12th January, 2009.

On 31st July, 2010, a very innovative and socially committed programme (SASAP- Santhome

Academic and Social Assistance Programme) was launched by which the Teachers and

Students of the College began to give free tuition (Three days per week ) to the Orphanage

students (Stds. VIII, IX, X) of St. Anne’s Institute, West Fort, Thrissur. On 1st June 2011 the

existing arts and Science Blocks were renamed as Administrative and Academic Blocks

respectively by the Manager, Mar Raphael Thattil.

The College has built up over the years extensive resources necessary to support and

accommodate more than 2700 students and nineteen teaching Departments (including the

six Research Departments and the twelve postgraduate Departments) that encompassed

140 teachers who taught the undergraduates and helped the postgraduates in their

specializations. The College Library houses nearly one lakh of volumes and is one of the

largest and oldest collections of books maintained by the Colleges in Kerala. The location of

the College near the Sahitya Akademy, the Lalita Kala Akademy, the Sangeeta Nataka

Akademy, the Archaeological Museum, the State Museum, the Zoo, the Public Library, and

various other institutions of higher learning in the medical, engineering, agricultural

specialisations and fine arts, provide the students with unique opportunities not available

elsewhere in Kerala. Though a comprehensive history of the St. Thomas’ College in the

context of the intellectual and social history of modern Kerala is yet to be designed and

worked out in the coming years, it has generally been recognized that the wealth of records

and other archival materials preserved in the St. Thomas’ College Archives encompasses the

events of more than a century of progress of central Kerala in education, of the history of the

spread of ideas and of the contributions of the Syrian Catholics to education, social progress

and nation-building. A collection of the publications of the members of the St. Thomas’

College community, both of the past and present, will not only form a library in itself but will

also stand as a testimony to and document what the College has long been doing as a centre of

higher learning to life and thought in Kerala during the past one century. A study of the impact

of these volumes on Kerala has to be at the centre of bringing out a true defence and

justification of the St. Thomas’ College, Trichur, which will definitely contribute to the form

and contents of a meaningful history of the College.

The foregoing brief account is only the bare outline of a proposal for a detailed history of the

College, which is yet to be planned and worked out in the coming years on the basis of the

archival materials pertaining to the history of the College as well as on oral evidence and the

fading memories of the old boys of the College. The success of the proposal will rest largely

on the volume of archival materials that the St. Thomas’ College will be able to identify,

preserve and appreciate in an attempt at bridging the gap between the past and the present of a

century-old academic excursion of a pioneering institution of higher learning in Kerala.

Some of the major events in the history of the College are briefly listed in the Analecta given

elsewhere in the College Manual for a fuller appreciaton of the history of the St. Thomas’

College.

Updated on: 14 May 2015

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