The Hindu College was established in 1817. It was rechristened Presidency College in 1855. However, the Alumni Association of the College did not come into existence at that time. An attempt of sorts was made on January 1, 1875 when a re-union of past students took place in ‘Marakata Kunja’-Emerald Bower of the Tagores. The occasion has been made memorable by Rajnarayan Basu in his history of the Presidency College written in Bengali.
On the College Founders’ Day January 20 of 1915, some alumni, under the leadership of Prafulla Chandra Ghosh decided to establish an old Boys Association. Unfortunately, nothing came out of that move. In 1925, a similar initiative taken by the same Professor met with identical fate. On March 20, 1926 some sort of an ‘alumni meet’ took place when the College arranged a gathering of ‘Veteran graduates of fifty years’ standing.
A more organized attempt was made in 1934 and a Presidency College Association was formed with Surendra Nath Mallick as Chairman and Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis as Secretary. But unfortunately once again the endeavour proved to be ephemeral. On January 19, 1951, a meeting of the former students of the College was called by a Press Notice. It was held in the Physics Lecture Theatre with Mahmood Ahmad (1903-1908), the senior most alumnus present on the chair. Among other things, the meeting set up an Organizing Committee with Atul Chandra Gupta (1901-1906) as Chairman and Jatish Chandra Sengupta, the Principal of the College as the Secretary.
On April 17, 1951 the Organizing Committee called a General Meeting of the members. Of the 300 members (life and ordinary members) enrolled, 117 attended that meeting. It was chaired by Satinath Ray (1893-1898). The first office bearers and members of the Executive Council were elected. The office bearers were:
President: Atul Chandra Gupta
Vice-Presidents: Satinath RayShyamaprasad Mukhopadhyay
Secretary: Jatish Chandra Sengupta, Principal
At long last the Presidency College got an Alumni Association that has been functioning without any interruption from its inception in 1951 till to day. The jinx, it looks like, has been warded off.
Hindu College/ Presidency College/Presidency University
With the creation of the Supreme Court in Calcutta in 1774 many Hindus of Bengal became eager to learn the English language. A remarkable Scot watchmaker, in collaboration with Radhakanta Deb had already taken some steps in that direction. Babu Buddinath Mukherjee advanced it further by enlisting the support of Sir Edward Hyde East, Chief Justice, Supreme Court who called a meeting of ‘European and Hindu Gentlemen’ in his house in May, 1816. The purpose of the meeting was to ‘discuss the proposal to establish an institution for giving a liberal education to the children of the members of the Hindu Community’. The proposal was received with unanimous approbation and donation over one hundred thousand rupees was promised right there. Raja Ram Mohan Roy had full sympathy for the scheme but chose not to come out in support of the proposal publicly for fear of ‘alarming the prejudices of his orthodox countrymen and thus marring the whole idea’.
The College formally opened on Monday, January 20, 1817 with twenty ‘scholars’. The control of the institution was vested in a body of two Governors and four Directors. The first Governors were Maharaja Tejchandra Bahadur of Burdwan and Babu Gopee Mohan Thakoor. The first Directors were Babu Gopeemohan Deb (father of Raja Radhakanta Deb of Sobhabazar), Babu Joykissen Sinha (grandfather of Kaliprasanna Sinha, the translator of Mahabharata into Bengali), Babu Radha Madhab Banerjee and Babu Gunganarain Doss; Babu Buddinath Mukherjee was the Secretary.
The classes were held at first in a rented house belonging to Gorachand Bysack at Garanhatta (later numbered 304 Chitpore Road). In January 1818 the Hindu College moved to ‘Feringhi Kamal Bose’s house’ located nearby. The building is a historic one because Raja Ram Mohan Ray inaugurated his Brahma Sabha here and Duff started his educational establishment later in 1834. From Chitpore, the Hindu College eventually shifted to Bowbazar and later to a building that now houses the Sanskrit College.
Increasing realization of the value of western education made the Hindu College a coveted destination of scholars from all over India. Pupils came from Patna, Assam, Vizagapatnam and by 1828 enrolment rose to 400. The obvious question, which was raised, was whether it would not be wiser for government to establish a new ‘English College’ open to all classes and community and leave the Hindu College to its fate. Incidentally, facing financial problems, the Committee of Managers of the Hindu College had become dependant on subsidy from the government which, as expected, began to play a greater role in running the affairs of the College.
On October 21, 1853, His Lordship the Governor of Bengal suggested that “a new general college should be established at Calcutta by the government and designated ‘The Presidency College’ …. the College should be open to all youths of every caste, class or creed…”. On June 15, 1855 the Presidency College was formally established. The ‘scholars’ of the College Department of the Hindu College were transferred to the Presidency College and 101 new admissions were made. Of this 101 pupils, two were ‘Muhammadans’, the rest were Hindus.
The problem of space had been plaguing the College authorities even after the expansion of the Sanskrit College building. The process of the land acquisition for having its own campus started in September 1865 and by 1870 the Principal of the Presidency College was in a position to submit a plan for the erection of a building for the College on the premises where it was located now. The new edifice was opened on March 31, 1874 by the then Lieutenant â€“ Governor Sir George Campbell in the presence of His Excellency of the Viceroy of India. The finishing touch was given to the dignity of the edifice by Babu Nuffer Chandra Pal Chaudhuri, who provided it with a turret clock, at a cost of nearly Rs. 5000.00 soon after its opening. Professor J. Sutcliffe was the Principal of the College when the new building was opened.
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