Sunday, July 12, 2009
St Anthony’s College, Shillong is heading for another milestone as it is going to celebrate its platinum jubilee this year. Founded in 1934, the institution has grown from strength to strength for the last 75 years to cater to the educational need of indigenous people of the northeastern region.
The need to set up this prestigious institution was felt during the colonial days since there was no degree-level college in Shillong at the time. There was only Cotton College, Guwahati for students of the whole region. Students had to take admission into Cotton College or colleges in other parts of the country to pursue their higher studies, which was a huge problem.
The Salesians of Don Bosco took note of this problem in 1983. The then Provincial Fr Louis Mathias and Fr Joseph Bacchiarello, who was the Headmaster of St Anthony’s High School, took initiative to embark on the venture of starting a new college in the region. They were encouraged by the then DPI GA Small who was also a member of the Senate of Calcutta University which was to give approval for a new college.
Finally, in 1934, Fr Bacchiarello started the first year Intermediate classes in the small classrooms of the wooden-floored Assam-type structure which housed St Anthony’s High School. The second year classes started in 1935. Two distinguished teachers who offered their services at a very nominal honorarium helped Fr Bacchiarello. He was also greatly assisted by Theodore Cajee, Assistant Headmaster of the school.
Fr Bacchiarello was transferred in 1935 and Fr Igino Ricaldone SDB took charge as the Principal. He succeeded in getting University affiliation for the college.
Fr Ricaldone built the ground floor of a concrete building, thus beginning the expansion of the college. He opened the Science and Commerce sections, both at the Intermediate and Bachelor’s degree levels.
During the World War II the college building was occupied by the military and so the school and the college had to run on a shift basis. The school functioned from 7 am to 11.30 am and the college from 12 noon to 4.30 pm. The BA classes started soon and the number of students increased dramatically. The college was outstanding in athletics. Its football and hockey teams were the usual winners in the tournaments organised by Shillong Sports Association. Fr Ricaldone opened Honours classes in the Arts subjects.
Meanwhile, in 1940, Fr NJ Kenny began his association with the college as English teacher. In 1948 Fr Kenny became the Warden of the College Hostel and occupied that post for 16 years besides being a Professor in English. Fr Ricaldone was transferred in January 1952 and Fr DJ Wollaston succeeded him as the Principal. He added the first floor to the concrete building constructed by Fr Ricaldone. Honours classes in Science began during that time. It was a time of consolidation marked by good discipline and excellent University results. The student strength of the college rose to more than 1200, a period of total harmony and steady growth.
Fr Joseph Arokiaswamy was appointed Principal when Fr Wollaston was transferred in 1958. A man of immense experience in educational matters, he was Principal for nearly 24 years, a period of further expansion of the college. He opened new departments and began the teaching of almost all the Honours subjects. He took personal interest in further improvement of performance of the college, and students of the college began to figure prominently and frequently in the list of the University exam toppers. Fr Joseph built the Boys’ Hostel and 10 family cottages for the staff.
He completed the Science Block of the new college building on the new campus and nearly completed the Arts Block. However, it was his ill health which compelled Fr Joseph to relinquish his post by the end of 1981.
In 1982, Fr Paul Petta became the Principal of the college. He completed the Arts Block in a few months and shifted the entire college to the new premises during the winter of the same year. The college celebrated its golden jubilee in 1984-85.
In 1986, Fr Stephen Mavely SDB was appointed Principal of the college and was in that position for sixteen years during which the college witnessed further expansion and development in many fields.
In the filed of studies, the college continued its tradition of excellence with visibly improved results in the various University examinations. Fr Stephen started pisciculture as a Graduate Programme up to the Honours level. Computer Science was introduced as a Graduate Programme up to Honours level and also as a Post-Graduate Diploma programme.
He took on himself an intense improvement programme and the college campus received a total face-lift. The botanical garden was set up.
Facilities in the college and the campus further increased and improved. Fr Stephen computerised the college administration and furnished and equipped the college conference hall.
The Diamond Jubilee Annex, an imposing and elegant multi-storeyed structure which houses the college’s chapel, auditorium, library, canteen and Counselling Centre, was completed in 1994.
The introduction of the first Post-Graduate Programme, MSc in Biotechnology, in 2005 under the leadership of the present Principal of the college Fr Ioannis Warpakma further strengthened the effort of the college to relevantly serve the need of people of the North- East, Meghalaya in particular. It was for the first time that a college affiliated to the North Eastern Hill University was allowed to open PG courses.
With the aim of cultivating and nurturing the innate love for music that is woven into the fabric of life and culture of the people of the North-East, the Department of Music was created in 2005. The course was designed to empower the people through a process of discovering, documenting and preserving the rich but less known musical traditions.
In the same year, career-oriented courses, approved by the UGC, were introduced with the aim of adding employable skills to students.
The pressing need to prepare young people for the booming IT industry and self-employment prompted the college to introduce the MCA programme in 2007.
At present (2009), St Anthony’s College has 28 Honours Departments along with other career and employment-oriented courses like PGDCA, CCNA, OCA, DCA, DOEACC “O” level, RHCT, RHCE, 9 UGC-approved courses and 11 certificate computer courses. Among the Degree courses 10 programmes are professional in nature. St Anthony’s College is the only College in Meghalaya to have de-linked the Plus Two.
From its humble beginning in a makeshift wooden structure near Don Bosco Square to its present enviable stature of imposing infrastructure and outstanding output, St Anthony’s College has managed to produce many stalwarts who are the pride of the region.
Courtsey: The Shillong Times