The Nowrosjee Wadia College, was established on July 21, 1932 within six months of the establishment of the Modern Education Society on February 15, 1932. True to Its credo ‘For the Spread of Light’, the college pioneered efforts to open the portals of higher education to the residents of eastern parts of Pune and pursued them tirelessly through the last eighty resplendent years. Over the years, it has become the first choice to acquire an all-round quality education for many promising young men and women all over the country and abroad.
While Pune was known ever since the advent of the British rule as a prominent center of education, the eastern parts of the city were virtually devoid of any educational facilities.
The matter of providing facilities for higher education in the eastern parts of Pune would have remained a distant dream had it not been for a group of prominent citizens in these parts and of devoted academicians in the city who clearly brought out to the public the need for a college in this part of the city. Among the important citizens of this part of Pune and the Cantonment who supported the idea were Sir Manekji Mehta, Prof. D. D. Kapadia, Shri A. B. Sethna, Rao Bahadur, Dr. R. K. Naidu, Dr. A. D’Gama and Sardar Mudaliar.
The Munificent Wadias
It may be mentioned here that Prin. V. K. Joag, who already knew the late Sir Cusrow Wadia, while he was life member of the Deccan Education Society, approached him about the middle of January 1932 and told him how he and some of his colleagues were free to work outside the Deccan Education Society and were desirous of starting an Arts and Science college in the eastern parts of the city of Poona as early as possible. Sir Cusrow was pleased with the idea and said that he and his brother Sir Ness Wadia would gladly help in any efforts to establish such a College. Sir Cusrow and Sir Ness also consented to name the planned new College after their illustrious father Shri Nowrosjee N. Wadia. A regular registered educational Society called the Modern Education Society was subsequently founded on 15th February at a meeting of the citizens of Poona and other friends held in the Cowasjee Dinshaw Library Hall.
It was at this meeting that the first Senate of the Modern Education Society was formed and the newly formed Senate decided on the recommendation of its Finance Council and the Academic Council, to establish, as from June, 1932, a college affiliated to a university in the Poona Suburban Area.The Senate also unanimously resolved that the College should be named after the late Shri. Nowrosjee Wadia and be called “The Nowrosjee Wadia College” as a mark of the Society’s gratitude to the Wadia brothers for the encouragement and support they had given to the Society. Sir Cusrow and Sir Ness were unanimously elected as President and Vice-president respectively of the proposed Modern Education Society. Thus the inception of the Nowrosjee Wadia College is to be traced back to this first meeting of the Senate of the Modern Education Society held on 15th February 1932.
As one can imagine, the work which had to be completed within a span of about three months was very heavy & but for the fact that among the founder life members of the College were several persons with considerable experience of teaching and administration & had also contacts in educational circles in Bombay and Poona, it would have been impossible to accomplish the task. Chief among these were Principal K. R. Kanitkar, Principal K. M. Khadye & above all, Principal V. K. Joag. They and others worked round the clock, enrolled over a hundred persons as fellows & patrons of the Society. Prin. Joag had already secured a promise from Sir Cusrow that he & his brother Sir Ness would each contribute towards the establishment of the College.
An application was accordingly submitted to the University of Bombay for the affiliation of the proposed College for the teaching of the Arts course upto B.A. Pass and Honors examinations, and the Science course up to the Intermediate examination. The Nowrosjee Wadia College thus started as a full grade College, teaching courses up to the B. A. in several subjects and in Science up to the Inter Science Examination.
The difficulties to be encountered and surmounted during this initial period were many. The foremost among them was a search for a suitable campus and a commodious building in the eastern parts of the city of Pune or Pune Cantonment. Since, except the distant hoary Deccan College which was largely residential, there were no facilities for higher education in the eastern parts of the City of Poona or in the Poona Cantonment area and students from these parts had to go to the Sir Parshurambhau College or the Ferguson College for collegiate education To start with the Society took on rent on a five years’ lease the Connaught House at 12 Connaught Road for temporarily housing the college. In addition, the Society also hired from Mr. E. A. Lalkaka, a portion of the late Sir N. P. Vakil’s property situated just in front of the Connaught House, on the other side of the Connaught Road. These rented buildings between them had ample room for temporarily housing the College.
Prof. K. M. Khadye was appointed the first Principal and Prof. S.B. Bondale the first Vice-Principal of the College. They were to have a staff of nineteen teachers including the life-members.
Equipping the Library and the Laboratory
The Society had agreed to spend in the first year Rs. 15,000, and then not less than Rs. 1,500 annually on books for the College Library. It was, however, not possible to obtain all the books required befor the College opened in June. Prof. K. M. Khadye, Dr. P. L. Vaidya, Prof. Sadashiv Iyer, Dr. K. K. Joshi, Prof. G. H. Kelkar and Prof. K. R. Kanitkar from among the Founder Life-members, however, agreed to give, on loan, books from their own libraries, and, Ms. Sapre, the widow of the late Principal B. G.Sapre, agreed to give a similar loan of books from her husband’s library. The Society gratefully accepted these loans and agreed subsequently either to buy the books or to return them. But for the timely assistance of these well – wishers, the Society would have found it very difficult to build the College library, as it was able to do, within a few weeks.
The same was true of the laboratories as well. Messrs. Gordhandas Desai and Co. of Bombay and their partners came to the assistance of the Society and agreed to equip the college laboratories, at a reasonable cost and in good time for the opening of the College in June 1932. They obtained in time the supplies from local and foreign markets at competitive prices. Messrs. Hari Ramchandra and Bros, of Bombay completed the order for furniture in time.
The proposal to establish a college in the eastern part of Poona was not without its own share of vocal critics. They wrote to the press and tried to raise a regular public controversy on the matter and invited the members of the Local Inquiry Committee and the University authorities to take into account the issues raised by them before affiliation to the college was granted.
This was not unexpected. All the objections were however met successfully in due course and the University bodies had no hesitation in recommending to the Government that the College be given affiliation as from June 1932. In fact, Dr. T. S. Wheeler, member of the Local Inquiry Committee, added in his separate note that “the staff of the College are to be congratulated on the successful completion of a very difficult task.” It was thus a race against time but the Society was able to get its act together in time.
Thanks to the reputation which the founder life members had enjoyed, even before the notification of affiliation from the Government was received, as many as about three hundred students had already enrolled their names at this new upcoming College.
It needs to be particularly noted that some of the life members who had decided to leave the Fergusson College and join Prin. Joag held classes free of charge for the students of the Fergusson College so that the students there were not put to any inconvenience.
The college now needed to provide the basic infrastructure, and the generous well-wishers of the college and the Society came forth to help provide these too. Thus, the Tata Assembly Hall, the Lalji Naraianji Dining Hall and one of the two Ladies Hostels on the premises of the Wadia College are all donated by these friends. The college will remain ever obliged to them for their fine gesture at a time when it was needed most.
The seminal contribution of the Wadia brothers, Prin. Joag and his colleagues
As one looks back at this impressive record of the college during those initial years, one cannot but feel that providence has in some way looked after it. If one were to select the principal personalities through whom and because of whom the Society achieved such success one thinks naturally in particular of two outstanding men. The first is the late Sir Cusrow Wadia. As a wise and generous donor from stage to stage he helped the Society in all its difficulties in the early years. He and his brother Sir Ness between them donated in those early years when there was depression and money was scarce, a sumptuous amount to embark upon as ambitious a project as founding of a new college. Sir Ness also persuaded several of his friends to help the Society. The donors other than the Wadia brothers were certainly impressed by the fact that among the major promoters of the College were the late Sir Cusrow and the late Sir Ness and that the College was named after their illustrious father Nowrosjee N. Wadia. The other person chiefly instrumental in the establishment and progress of the Society is of course Principal V. K. Joag. Sir Cusrow himself said in a letter to a friend that but for Joag there would have been no Wadia College although Joag always used to say that whatever has been achieved was due to the efforts of all the associates of the Society and that if any one person is to be given the credit, that was Sir Cusrow. Both were right and the only wish one can express is that its life members, its teachers and students today and hereafter follow in the footsteps of Principal V. K. Joag, and work for the college as Joag did for its all-sided development by building up a team of workers.
Although when this College was established, Joag had already passed the age of forty, he learn all the new habits and outlook needed to build up a truly cosmopolitan educational institution which deliberately paid attention to all around development of its students. Even before the establishment of the Wadia College he was not only a very effective teacher of his subject but was also actively conversant with the work of the Bombay University. His continuous work for this Society and its institutions gave him a rare prestige in University circles and also suitable recognition from all who were interested in education in Bombay.
Joag took great care right from the beginning to seek the assistance and guidance of veterans in the educational field, such as Khan Bahadur Sheikh, Prof. D. D. Kapadia, Prof. S. G. Sathe. Prof. R. P. Patwardhan, Prin. J. A. Taraporewala, Rao Bahadur Dr. D. L. Sahasrabudhe and many others. Nor did he forget to associate with the Society as members of the Societies’ managing bodies, persons of distinction in the business world such as the late Sir Manekji Mehta, the late Shri. D. E. Chinoy, and the late Shri Maneklal Premchand. In those early nascent days, the Society was fortunate in having on its bodies persons from all communities of very great experience in education or business for they were always a source of great strength to the workers of the Society. Their advice on important matters was decisively valuable for the growth of the Society.
The modern times
Over the last several decades the Nowrosjee Wadia College has emerged as one of the pioneer liberal arts and science colleges in Western Maharashtra. It has many laurels to boast of -22 academic departments with many of them imparting post-graduate instruction, accreditation at ‘A’ level several illustrious alumni and more than 6000 students on its roll. True to its cosmopolitan student community it attracts young people the world over. The college now has new plans on the anvil, and with its forward-looking management and a vibrant staff, it is more than confident of reaching its goal.
(Adapted from the article in Ness Vision “The Expression” vol-II issue / May-August 2007 written by Prin. Dr. H. V. Deosthali)