The college, a product of the nationalist movement, had its origin in the 19th century. Fired by the spirit of nationalism, three well-known teachers – G Sesha Iyengar, P G Sundaresa Sastrigal and B S Venkataramana Sarma - founded the National High School in 1886. Thirteen years later, in June 1919, the National College was established through the munificence of the zamindar of Andipatti Diwan Bahadur Pethachi Chettiar and the collective initiative of Justice
T V Seshagiri Iyer, T Desikachariar, N D Subburama Iyer and Sivarama Krishna Iyer. It required tons of courage to set up a swadeshi venture that required a lot of resources. Remember in those times Christian missionaries dominated higher education and enjoyed support from the British government?
V Saranathan-Mr National College
National College had the advantage of highly dedicated leaders who devoted their energies whole-heartedly. In the long line of such illustrious commanders V Saranathan stands out: for 26 long years, 1921 -1947, he functioned as the Principal and steered the college through tough times. For decades, National College was synonymous with Saranathan. Several of his famous students recall the brilliance of Saranathan as a teacher of English.
V Krishnamurthy took over as president at the invitation of alumnus and President R Venkataraman. Other star alumni include M G Balasubramanian, IAS, C V Narasimhan, IPS and Dr C Rangarajan, former Governor - RBI.
Secretary K Raghunathan referred to the spectacular transformation of the college after Krishnamurthy took over: the infrastructure of this sprawling campus in the heart of Tiruchi spread over 27 acres has undergone dramatic improvements. The college has set up centres of excellence in mathematics, geology, biotechnology and microbiology. These are apart from areas of traditional strengths of commerce, economics, physics and computer science. Krishnamurthy who took three leading corporates – BHEL, Maruti Udyog, and SAIL – to global heights, has been liberally funding this venerable institution. He is estimated to have poured over Rs.30 crore towards nourishing the college.
Impressive track record
In my visit I was impressed with the record of several departments. The chemistry department, has a broad range of instrumentation that is not widely seen in most other higher institutes of learning. I also observed a high-level workshop in progress at the department of biotechnology and microbiology attended by researchers from several institutes including IIT-M. Dr S Senthilkumar and Prof S Shantkriti explained the advanced research work done in the area of stem cells.
Principal Dr K Anbarasu said the college offered 19 PG programmes and 20 under-graduate programmes. Recognised as one of the centers of advanced learning, it registers candidates for doctoral research and M Phil.
I saw Krishnamurthy’s imprint in the attention given to the development of sports. The huge indoor stadium endowed with comfortable facilities is among the prides of the college.
“Around 1600 students are provided free education. Over 90 per cent of students belong to backward classes and scheduled caste and hail from a rural background. Eighty per cent of their parents had not been to school. Special efforts are made to help them switch to English as medium of instruction ,” said VK.
VK is ready with the major plans of expansion: this includes a school in the name of his wife Rajam to impart quality education from the primary level. This will achieve twin pruposes: one of catching children young and laying a strong foundation of fundamentals and second, to build a reservoir of aspiring students to pursue higher studies.
For close to seven decades nonagenarian Krishnamurthy has been contributing richly to the evolution of India as an economic power. One can be sure that National College, which will celebrate its centenary in 1919, would have many more feathers in its thick cap under the lead of VK.