Wednesday, December 09, 2009


College celebrates centenary D. Karthikeyan

American College plans a light-and-sound show to mark celebration
— Photo: G. Moorthy

Standing tall: The main building of The American College.

MADURAI: Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom- George Washington Carver

Fin de siècle to the close of 19th century and start of 20th century saw the emergence of missionary education spreading across the wider parts of erstwhile Madras Presidency taking education to the unreached spaces.

One such defining moment was the establishment of The American College, in Madurai, started initially as ‘Pasumalai College’ in the year 1881 at Pasumalai.

Rev. Zumbro who had his formal education at University of Michigan, Columbia and Yale, made a proposal in the year 1903 to the Missionary bound in the United States to shift the college to Madurai.

New vision

The idea behind this shifting was to give a new vision to Christian higher education.

By this, Rev. Zumbro meant that education should be made available to the common man despite divisions based on caste, creed and religion, said Joseph Chinnaraj Jaikumar, Principal, The American College.

Rev. Zumbro envisaged that once Christian education goes public, people of Madurai would acquire a character which would be beneficial for the city in the long term.

In his words, “Madurai should grow with American College and American College should grow with Madurai.”

The century old American College main building symbolizes this slogan as it was this grandiose structure built by adopting the Indo Saracenic style rather than Gothic or Victorian that signified the arrival of modernity in Madurai.

Mr. Chinnaraj Jaikumar, said that this synthesis of Indo Aryan style also represents secularism as it possesses the minarets and arches of Islamic structure, corridors of Hindu temple and the grandness of gothic style.


The construction of the building was started in the year 1905 and was completed in 1909.

The main hall of the building was indeed a central element in the major intellectual shift that took place then in the form of public lectures to the citizens of the city.

Eminent literary scholars and international figures like Rabindranath Tagore, French Premiere Georges Clemenceau visited the college and delivered lectures in the hall.

In fact, Tagore gave public lectures in the year 1919 and collected Rs. 2,365 out of which he took Rs.2, 000 for Visva Bharati, Shantiniketan and gave Rs.365 for starting an endowment in American College.

The building was constructed by Henry Irving, who built the Mysore Palace and the then Principal G. T. Washburn was influential in getting funds from the U.S.

The building to the surprise of people of this generation was constructed at a cost of Rs.52, 000, said Mr. Chinnaraj Jaikumar.

The College will be holding a ‘light and sound’ show to mark the centenary celebration.

Mr. Chinnaraj who has done a good amount of research on Rev. Zumbro’s contribution to higher education is to come out with a book aiming to highlight his contributions to the dissemination of knowledge in this part of the world.

Citizens of Madurai owe a great deal of respect and gratitude for Rev. Zumbro who was instrumental in spreading inclusive education based on science.


Apart from his contributions in the field of education, Rev. Zumbro was a socially conscious individual who saw the resettlement of palm tree workers and the place was now remembered by his name Zumbropuram.

© Copyright 2000 - 2009 The Hindu


தருமி said...

Prof. V. SRINIVASAN writes ...

Thambi Dharumi: The Hindu caption is misleading. It is not the centenary celebration of the College it is the centenary celebration of a building in the College which is more than 130 years old.

What is missing in that report is that the huge building with an assembly hall that can seat almost 1000 people was conceived and built at a time the strength of the college was hardly 50 students and 10 faculty members. You may not know this. That was the foresight of the founders of the College You may include this in the IPAC webpage if you wish.

வால்பையன் said...

கட்டிடத்துக்கு நூறு வயசு என்பதும் பெரிய விசயம் தானே!?

Baranee said...

Long live my Alma mater...Still the "Candle light" ceremony happened at Main hall is in my mind as it happened a day before.

Pls let me know when the function will be held? wanna attend that...


தருமி said...

நன்றி வால்பையன்.

நூறு ஆண்டுகள் என்பதை விட 50 பேர் மாணவர்கள் இருக்கும்போது 1000 பேர் கொள்ளும் ஹால் ஒன்றைக் கட்டினார்களே அவர்களது எதிர்காலப் பார்வை போற்றுதற்குரியதாகிறது.

தருமி said...

Zumbro என்ற பெயரை தவறாக எழுத்துப்பிழையுடன் "இந்து" போட்டுவிட்டதே!

தருமி said...

நம் கல்லூரிப் பதிவில் போட்டு விடுகிறேன். (

Post a Comment