Our Founder, Principal, Managing Trustee, Rector calls us to attention for one last time. It will be the last meeting of the afternoon. Three decades ago Msgr. Nereus Rodrigues had a dream that a college should be built to cater primarily, but not exclusively to the needs of the community. On 9 July 1983 St. Andrew’s Degree College was inaugurated after getting the required permissions from the from the Government and the University of Mumbai. From very modest beginnings with two courses and about 183 students, we have taken giant strides and now offer a rich repertoire of six graduate self – financing courses and one post –graduate course with about four thousand students.
This success story has one unbroken link. Msgr. Nereus has been the guiding spirit behind all these initiatives. He was the first Principal of the college and continued as Managing Trustee for all these years. His rich educational background more than qualified him for this position After graduating in Arts from St.Xavier’s College and completing his studies at the Seminary, he was sent by the then Cardinal Valerian Gracias to London University to study for a graduate degree in Education. He was then directed to continue his studies in Canon Law at the Pontificia Universita Urbaniana in Rome where he earned his Doctoral Degree in and passed Summa Cum Laude. Later he received the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship and was in the US at the University of Southern California.
He was Principal of St. Andrew’s High School from 1958 – 1969 and of Sacred Heart High School from 1969 – 1981. He was later Parish Priest of St. Andrew’s Church. His students and parishioners remember with pride, how with discipline and hard work these institutions flourished and became jewels in the crown of the Archdiocese. While still a young priest, he had the rare distinction of being made President of a secular body, the ‘Head Master’s Association’. He was soon appointed Inspector of Catholic Schools and served in this position in the 1960s and 70s. In 1974 – 75 he was awarded the State Best Teacher’s Award. With his knowledge of rules and uncompromising insistence on quality, he helped many an institution to raise their benchmark and go beyond what was expected.
As Principal, I am deeply grateful to him for his unstinted support and encouragement over these last seven years. He expressed his confidence in me by giving me full freedom to undertake all the major academic initiatives I so desired. Besides the numerous activities that we organize, we host every year three of four Major seminars, – International, National and Local. We publish four Journals with an ISSN number and our staff members are involved with research, receiving Research grants and Presenting papers in India and abroad.
His spiritual presence in college cannot be overlooked. We praise and thank God for his rich contribution to our college. He continues to enjoy God’s special favour, for although he reached the magical number of 90 years, this April, his mind is still razor sharp and alert. We pray that our Patron St. Andrew continue to bless and protect him always.
Rev. Fr. Rodney Esperance was associated with St. Andrew’s College from its very inception as Founder Trustee of the St. Andrew’s Society for Education and Research. However, it was only after 1995 that he was actually available on a full time basis in the college. Since 1995 he worked as the Asst. Manager of St. Andrew’s College.
Prior to 1995, Fr. Rodney was a Principal of several schools in Mumbai. He wanted to further the cause of the academically marginalized and it was this desire that led him to establish the National Institute of Open School ( N.I.O.S) center that provides several students an opportunity to complete their X and XII standard examinations and then follow their dreams or even rejoin the formal education system.
Fr. Rodney was a man with a large heart. He was accessible to people from all walks of life and he always provided a friendly listening ear, solace and encouragement to those who needed it. He used his contracts with the government and administration to help people and institutions solve their problems.
As a priest he answered the call to his vocation sincerely. He was a priest and counselor to many, especially the young. He arranged for holiday camps every vacation for young boys and girls to enable them to have a comfortable holiday and at the same time develop their personalities.
His presence will be missed at St. Andrew’s College. May his soul Rest In Peace.
Mr. Aleve has been with us from 1983 as Administrator and late as a trustee. Johnnie, as we call him, has been helping Msgr. Nereus Rodrigues, the Rector for this College, ever since Cardinal Simon Pimenta requested the Rector to take over the building and establish St. Andrew’s College from 1983. During these years, Msgr. Nereus Rodrigues, the Rector and Fr. Aniceto Pereira, Vice Rector (later) have been stalwarts, with Johnnie being a supporter. Through the year, he has helped by lending his willing hand to collect founds when we were hard pressed for cash and to mobilise the staff when we were in difficulties.
Mr. Johnnie Alves used to write regularly for the Examiner. His name is almost synonymous with his wonderful sense of humour. He has also two books to his credit “My Wife and Other Problems : and the rejoinder, My Husband the Only Problem. These books have delightful little stories. Take chapter of the first book, it reads, “Thank – God for Mother-in-law” In this chapter he narrates the story of a man is supposed to have responded: “Don’t take a chance. Do both”.
Mr. Alves has always been courteous and willing to help. With wonderful public relations skills he would constantly be winning friends and influencing people, and letting them know that St. Andrew’s College was among the ten best college in Mumbai. His tremendous optimism, zest for life and friendly approach has made him popular with the staff and students. His energetic and positive spirit has kept him looking young. As George Menezes wrote, “If Johnny is able to stay young and look as if he is fifty when his birth shows that he is nearing hundred, is because of two reasons: One is because of his self-discipline and the second because he walks, and walks and walks”
I would like to end by saying, that when Mr. Alves leaves us, he will not walk out of our lives completely. He will be more than welcome to visit us, as often as he wants. But as another chapter closes, I encourage him to take up his pen and begin a new chapter which might be –“Life and Times at St. Andrew’s College”. I am sure if he puts his mind to it, it might well turn out to be a best seller. May our patron St. Andrew’s bless him and his family always.