Habemus Universitatem – We have a University

February 1, 2024

Habemus Universitatem. We have a University. The deliberate use of Latin words signifies Mangalore’s oldest link with Latin and Italian Jesuits – St Aloysius College. For well over 144 years St Aloysius College positioned atop the Lighthouse Hill, has been the beacon of knowledge in the west coast of India and beyond. The Italian Jesuits started the College in 1880, which today has metamorphized into a giant academic colossus. The growth of St Aloysius College is one of steady, marked by fostering Christian values. ADMG- Ad Maojerem Dei Gloriam - For the Greater Glory God, the corner stone of Jesuit philosophy, has been guiding the destiny at St Aloysius College. For a premier institution of the coast, the university status was due for a long time but lack of will from the power that be delayed it beyond ages or shall we say there has been no concrete proposal from the college? In the course of history, it was affiliated to Madras University, Mysore University, Dharwad University and in recent times to Mangalore University. Now it will stand on its own as St Aloysius University.

The circumstances under which St Aloysius was started is made of legendary inputs. Imagining something of a college 145 years ago, of the St Aloysius stature was unimaginable. The efforts to bring Jesuits to the shores of Mangalore started as far as back in mid 19th century. The Mangalorean Catholics were aware of the excellent education provided by St Xavier College Bombay, St Joseph’s College Madurai and other Jesuit institutions worldwide. The community, mindful of a better future for their wards, was in constant touch with the Society of Jesus and the Holy See, to prevail upon them to send Jesuits to Mangalore. Several cable grams were sent to the Holy See to not only send Jesuits to start a college but also to take over charge of to be formed Diocese of Mangalore. Cardinals were appealed to, through cable grams in Latin and in total there were nine of them dispatched to Rome between 23 April and 24 December in 1869 and the cost for which was a whopping Rs. 1364, a fortune in the latter half of the19th century. These Cable grams were directly sent to Pope Pius IX. The community again renewed their efforts in 1874 and sent appeals signed by around 250 prominent Mangaloreans. This time the Pope Pius IX heeded to their appeal and decided to send Jesuits to Mangalore but his desire came to an abrupt end with his death in 1878. His successor Pope Leo XIII took up the matter when he issued a brief separating the Vicariate of Kanara from Verapoly, the present-day Cochin. The Pope asked the then Jesuit Superior General Fr Peter Beckx to send some of his men to Kanara. Early in 1878 after receiving blessings from Pope Leo XIII, the pioneers sailed from Rome to Naples to make preparations. They set sail from Naples towards the end of November. Pope Leo could be called the driving force of this mission, as he got the Jesuits to go to a distant land. Three fathers and two brothers of Jesuit Province of Venice sailed from Naples to India. The party arrived in Bombay on 19th December 1878.

The pioneer Jesuit band included – Msgr. Nicholas Maria Pagani, Fr Angelo Maffei, Fr Angelo Mutti, Fr Quintus Sani, Br Mathew Meneghetti, Br Francis Zamboni, all Italians, Fr Augutus Muller and Fr Urban Stein both Germans and Fr Otto Ehrle an Austrian. Lawrence Lobo Prabhu, the wealthy landowner of the town, donated nine acres on the Lighthouse Hill. His donation proved to a springboard for starting the college. Together with the support the pioneers laid a strong foundation for not only the College but also for a forward looking Diocese, in varied aspects as industry, agriculture, press and art. The results of their dedicated efforts are all there to see. They were doing the finest things for South Kanara. The example of the first college building opened in 1885(now houses the High School) is one of the finest buildings standing strong for the last 140 years. For the last 140 years Jesuits have been using its upper floor as their residence. In layout and architecture, it is one of the finest buildings for a college. The chapel paintings by Bro Antonio Moschceni are the finest example of church art in whole of India. It’s a tourist attraction drawing crowds from across the world, so also the museum nearby. Jesuits take extreme pride in keeping this cultural treasures in immaculate condition.

The prelude for a strong academic atmosphere was laid by St Aloysius College in the district. Today, there are around 14,000 students in the campus and they throng the streets in the morning and evening filling the surroundings with youthfulness, hope and positivity. It is a finest seed-bed for nurturing and building a strong personality. Students from pre kg level to those pursuing doctorates make the college campus as their home.

The South Kanara district is often called the intellectual district of Karnataka. Today, it is well-known as the hub of education with several medical, technical and commerce colleges around and students from across the country make it to the city for education. A strong foundation for this was laid in later part of the nineteenth century. The ripple effect of education at St Aloysius was felt throughout the district. The examples of dedication by Jesuits became a bench mark of teachers and students. Dr TMA Pai the founder of Manipal Education conglomerate, was a student for three years around 1916. The young Madhav Ananth Pai, was supported with a scholarship for all three years of his graduation. Two things, said to have influenced his future plans as educational entrepreneur. One- he thought to himself how dedicated are the Italian Jesuits and how they travelled miles to another country to give us education. How much more we should do to the welfare of ours own. Second – When he had a bad toothache, the fathers at the College sent him to Kankanady Hospital, where the aching molar was removed without much pain by administering anaesthesia by well-known Dr LP Fernandes. The young Madhav had earlier suffered due to lack of quality treatment. He thought to himself that there are better ways of treatment. He acknowledged this fact at good many occasions including in his biography. In the words of a resourceful Mangalorean Colin D Silva ‘Dr TMA Pai reportedly said to have instructed the builders of the Kasturba Medical College Mangalore to not to go higher than the hight of building of his alma mater. This shows his respect to his alma mater.’ Other than Dr TMA Pai there were many other old students who have made the best use of education by St Aloysius College, thousands of them.

Today, when the St Aloysius College has become St Aloysius University its a realisation of the dream of many years perhaps of a century. Bishop Paul Perini the third bishop of Mangalore, had visualised that College should be a university by the time it turned Golden. Labyrinthine was its process that it took 94 years to come to a fruition. With the several repeated trips to the authorities spanning departments, to make a point to the authorities, Fr Praveen Martis SJ, the current Principal of the College, burnt the midnight oil to earn the status of a university. With academic excellence, required infrastructure, research atmosphere, plurality of student population, the campus location, qualified faculty etc., the College was always geared for earning the status of a university. But it required making a point that there is a college in the coastal town of Mangalore, who for the last 144 years has been the flag bearer of the education, that has helped build a nation by churning out responsible individuals. Fr Praveen Martis, along with the Rector Fr Melvyn Joseph Pinto SJ have flipped the thousand pages of so many files that were submitted to the government authorities. The dogged determination of the duo ably aided by the friends of the College was successful in instilling a political will that ultimately had to bow down to the selfless dedication of Jesuits, who worked for Greater Good of human beings. Mangalore will now boast of a University that has been the college of colleges, teacher of teachers. Every Mangalorean who is connected to the College directly and indirectly will feel proud at their alma mater being crowned with a university status. As for St Aloysius College, as it turns into St Aloysius University, it is a clarion call for aiming at a high academic outcome of forming individuals who shine to enkindle or are burning to shine. Lucet et ardet should remain the guiding motto of the College in the years to come which will complete century and a half in 2030. For the rest of it its all a moment to cheer up celebrate and say cheers! We have a University.




By William Pais
William Pais is the author of coffee-table books ‘The echoes of the Corridors - A portrait of St Aloysius College’ and ‘The land Called South Kanara’. He is also director at Gallerie Orchid, Mangaluru.
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Comment on this article

  • naveen goveas, Moodbidri/ Dubai

    Sun, Feb 04 2024

    Excellent article. Proud feeling for every mangalorean.

  • Fr. J Prasad Pinto, Hospet, now at Bareilly UP

    Sat, Feb 03 2024

    Excellent article! It helped me to recall and relive all that I had experienced during my studies at St Aloysius in 1950s. Wonderful. Thanks.

  • Naresh, Kerala

    Fri, Feb 02 2024

    Well written article, will make every Mangalorean feel proud.

  • Stephen Pinto, Kadri/Bendur

    Thu, Feb 01 2024

    Wonderful article with great flashback information. As an Alumni , we are proud of the University Status. Long live St Aloysius University.

  • Venu Sharma, Mangalore

    Thu, Feb 01 2024

    Good article. Neatly written

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