Padma Shri C. Gopalan who passed out of MCC
High School in 1932 reminisces :
I was a student of Madras Christian College High
School when it was still located at Parry's Corner.
I was in the very first batch of students of Mr.
Kuruvila Jacob. He had just returned from London
around 1931 and was appointed Headmaster of the
School when I was still in my Fifth form. Mr.
Jacob was then in his late 20's. I came to know
him and his family fairly closely.
when I became the Director of National Institute
of Nutrition in Hyderabad, Mr. Jacob also came
to Hyderabad to head the Hyderabad Public School.
My son, Sarath was his student at school. So,
Mr. Jacob was the teacher of both father and son
- very unique indeed. After he moved to Mumbai,
he used to contact me every time he came to Delhi
and in fact kept in touch with me till his last
days. After his death, his wife kept contact with
me through many letters and I know his children
Jacob belonged to Ayyemenam in Kottayam, the same
place that Arundhati Roy has made famous in her
book "The God of Small Things".
Kuruvilla Jacob and I, were awarded and received
the Padma Shri the same year in 1971. In an interview
that followed thereafter, he was gracious enough
to say that, He was extremely happy that he and
his student were getting the award together.
I was a B.Ed. student in St. Xavier’s Teachers College, Palayamkottah, in 1956-57. B.Ed students had two examinations: theory and practical. Theory was administered by Madras University. The local college under the supervision of the University conducted practical examination. University sent a team of examiners to each B.Ed College to assess the students and the grading practice of the college. These examiners decided who should get first class in practical. The principal of the College had recommended me for first class. The examiners came to my practice-teaching class to observe and assess. Mr. Kuruvila Jacob was one of the three distinguished gentlemen appointed to this onerous task in 1956-57. I was given a class of Form V, and was asked to teach a poem. The poem was about growing old. After the preliminaries of a classroom, I asked the students to turn around and look at the last bench. There seated were the three examiners accompanied by Fr. Utaraidl, the principal. I asked the students to describe the four gentlemen. At first the students were reluctant. But I cajoled them to say a word or two about the persons sitting at the back. One boy said, “Grey hair”; another said, “bald”; a third said, “wrinkles”. I wrote those words on the blackboard. Thus began my teaching about growing old. The examiners must have found the class interesting as they stayed for the full 45 minutes. At the end of the lesson, the principal instructed me to be prepared to teach Social Studies in the afternoon. The examiners were again duly present. The class was in Tamil and I taught some rudiments of economics. The gentlemen had to catch a train that afternoon and after a few minutes, excused themselves. I accompanied them to the door. Mr. Kuruvila Jacob stayed back for a few moments and whispered to me in Malayalam that my Tamil was a bit rusty. I agreed with him and thanked him. Then he left saying, “Congratulations!”. When the results of the B.Ed examinations appeared in newspapers, I had secured a first class. I wrote a personal letter to Mr. Kuruvila Jacob to thank him and inform him that I was appointed headmaster of St. Antony’s High School, Coonoor. His reply surprised me. He congratulated me and added that I was doing better than him as he was made the headmaster of Madras Christian College High School at the age of 27, whereas I was only 23 when I became headmaster.
A few months into the year, Mr. Sundaravadivelu, The Director of Public Instruction of Madras, convened a meeting of all heads of schools in the State to expound his schemes including, and especially, his fascination with the concept of basic education. I went to Madras for the conference. Kuruvila Jacob, head and shoulders above most persons, spotted me in the crowd and invited me to sit with him. He introduced me to several of his friends. He knew everyone who was anyone in education in Madras and everybody knew him. From that time on, we became friends.
The central Government appointed a commission of educationists to study the physical education prevailing in the country and recommend changes. Mr. Kuruvila Jacob was one of the members of that commission. I was asked to appear before the commission with my thoughts. Instead I suggested that the commission travel to the Nilgiris to meet some of the headmasters and see for themselves the enthusiasm and public support for games and sports in the remote hill station. They did come to Coonoor and Ooty. Greg Memorial Sports, which was the early name for the Interschool athletic meet was a great crowd pleaser in the district. When the commission members arrived, the finals of the interschool football tournament took place in their presence. The traditional rivalry between St. Antony’s High School, Coonoor, and Municipal High School, Ooty was famous. The game took place in the racecourse grounds in Ooty and thousands of people had gathered from both the towns to encourage their teams. St. Antony’s won by one single, solitary goal. The commission, in its recommendations, suggested such sports and tournaments at the state level. Mr. Kuruvila Jacob and I were in the committee to promote State wide meets.
In 1962 I took up the principalship of St. Gabriel’s High School, Kazipet, Andhra. Coincidentally K. Jacob had retired from MCCHS after serving there for 31 years, and took over the stewardship of Hyderabad Public School. This elite institution had fallen on hard times and Kuruvila Jacob was asked to bring it back to its pristine glory. He had a free hand to do anything. I visited him in Hyderabad several times. One day I got a call from him. He asked for a personal favour. Apparently, Divakar, one of my teachers, had applied for a job in The Public School. Kuruvila Jacob needed new teachers and Divakar was an excellent physics teacher. Would I release him from the terms of his contract with St. Gabriel’s. I was hesitant. I had other teachers who could replace Divakar. So our friendship trumped my reluctance. When the education department of Andhra and private schools in the State had disputes, I persuaded the private managements to seek the advice of Kuruvila Jacob.
After I came to Canada in 1967, I knew that Kurivila Jacob had done yeoman service in Hyderabad, brought back the prestige of The Public School. From there he went to Bombay where he had been given the task of running Cathedral School. I was sure he would do equally well in Bombay too.
It was a chance remembrance about Kuruvila Jacob that prompted me to google his name, and, lo and behold, I saw all about him in a website. After a distinguished career in education, he retired to be with his grandchildren in Vellore. Kuruvila Jacob died in 1991.
Mr. Kuruvila Jacob was a towering personality, literally and figuratively. He was affable, approachable, faithful in friendship and imaginative. He was an educator without an equal. I remain indebted to him for his personal friendship and example.