KOCHI: 'An educational institution that instilled in me the value of leading a disciplined life', K V Thomas MP describes his alma mater, Sacred Heart College, Thevara, this way. For him, the college made him the man he is today. Established in 1944, Sacred Heart College (SH) was the first institution of higher education to be founded by the CMI congregation. Fr Peter Thomas Pynumkal CMI was its first principal.
As it enters its platinum jubilee year, SH College can proudly boast being one of the top-ranking colleges in the country.
A humble start
The college started with 276 students. There were three intermediate and degree programmes affiliated to Madras University. The courses offered at the degree level were commerce, mathematics and economics. Over seven decades since its founding, SH has been steadily and surely forging ahead in its relentless pursuit of excellence. "I still remember going to the college in a shirt and shorts. I joined the pre-university course in 1960 in the science stream," said Thomas.
According to him, in its early days, the college was a men's only institution like all the CMI establishments. "However, the status changed in the early 70s, after it became the first to
admit women. The move was well-celebrated news with some prominent vernacular dailies carrying headlines like 'Sacred Heartil Valakilukkam'," he said.
"But, now I think girls outnumber boys there," he adds. Thomas, a native of Kumbalangi, remembers how commuting to the college was an issue then. "I had to walk a long distance across the land on which Cochin Shipyard stands today. So, I enrolled myself in the hostel. It was an enriching and joyful experience too."
Thomas recalls how there weren't rigid rules and structures. "I still remember the way the hostel warden Fr Gardinus took care of each student. He was like a father for me," said Thomas. His stint at SH isn't confined to just being a student. Thomas did his PG in chemistry and finally became a teacher in the same department.
The college was well-known for not just academics but also for sports.
"I think it was the first to introduce the sports quota. There has been no discrimination among students. Many a times the college helped students from financially-weak families. All these were done in a discreet manner," he said.
Recalling an incident, he said, "During the 1962 China war when rice was short in supply, we were fed tapioca and beef. It was rumoured that the dish was put together by the CMI priests." The college was also well known as a political hot-house. According to Babu Joseph, director, School of Communications, Sacred Heart College, the emergency period in 1975 saw a lot of political activity on the campus. "This campus has given birth to big names. In the earlier years, there had been no restriction on campus politics. The college union chairman used to be selected from the class leaders," he said.