Amazing Academician Dr R Subbayyan, The First Vice Chancellor of Bharathiar University

“My mother Ammani Ammal brought me up. She bought cows and buffaloes in order to run the family. I just went to school along with the other kids and it was spontaneous. The authorities asked me to bring my mother and she came over the next day for the purpose of fulfilling the formalities. My entire education was through scholarship. I joined the Government Arts College to my Intermediate (Maths, Physics & Chemistry). Thereafter I did my B.A Hons in Maths from Pachaiyyapas. I was drawn towards civil service and went on to join the school founded by L.R.G Naidu in Lakshminaickenpalayam in order to use the library. The school library was not sufficient enough for my I.C.S pursuit and therefore I quit the position. I joined the Sarvajana School as a teacher and was quick to discover that the library was not geared to help me fulfil my ambitions. Therefore I gave up my job and joined the Andhra University in order to do an M.Sc in Mathematical Physics. It was at this time that I met Prof G.R. Damodaran (GRD) through the good offices of Prof P.R.Ramaswamy. His guidance led me to the Indian Institute of Sciences in Bengaluru. I did my DIISc in this premiere institution. I got to see an advertisement for a job in the Central Tractor Organization. It led me to GRD once again and he told me that the organization was mismanaged and suggested that I join P.S.G College of Technology. I joined the great institution in 1953 under GRD and grew with it,” stated Dr R.Subbayyan. He was born to Rangaswamy Naidu and Ammani Ammal in 1925.
Dr Subbayyan married Pankajakshi in 1958 and the couple have been living in Damu Nagar for almost 60 years. Pankajakshi Subbayyan was the Thakkaar of the Arulmigu Koniamman Temple at one time and is responsible for the efficient management of the Varasiddhi Vinayagar temple in Damu Nagar. The locality was created by Prof G.R.Damodaran. Subbayyan got busy at PSG Tech and he was involved in the correspondence and recruitment thereafter. GRD was happy with Subbayyan and he advised him to apply for higher education in a foreign university, particularly MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).
“It was a great place and they used to take just a few from India those days. However GRD was confident and I got admission with financial assistance. The cable from MIT stated that I was to join by the 4th of February and it was also possible for me to work as a teaching assistant. I did not have a passport or money to travel. GRD gave a letter to the Secretary of Chief Minister K.Kamaraj and I got my passport in just 5 days. He ensured that I got my air ticket immediately. Later he sent his car to my house and I went to his house in order to get his blessings. He came along to drop me in the airport. GRD is my GODFATHER. GRD was very happy and he told me – ‘see did I not tell you that it will happen.’ I did my course in MIT and returned to PSG on the advice of GRD. He wanted me to start the Post Graduate programme and then proceed for higher studies once again. What a noble man ! I went to Delhi, did the work connected with the Post Graduate programme and settled down to become the Professor of Electrical Engineering in PSG under GRD , the great Principal of the institution. Time passed by and I was busy with PSG Tech. It was the year 1970 and I got a call from Prof GRD. I was in the Officers Club with Prof P.R.Ramaswamy that evening. On meeting GRD the next day, I came to know that I was appointed as the Principal of the prestigious P.S.G College of Technology. My Godfather Prof GRD was a forward thinking person and he was a leader with a vision. He has helped numerous students. I am grateful for his grooming and my entire career was with PSG Tech,” added Dr R.Subbayyan.
Dr R.Subbayyan served as the Principal of PSG Tech (1970 – 1982) and was also the first Vice Chancellor (1982 – 1988) of Bharathiar University. Subsequently he became an Emeritus Professor of UGC (University Grants Commission). He was on the Executive Committee of AICTE and a Member of the State Level Committee. The Professor had served as Member of several committees connected with education and had also served on the board of numerous institutions. He has guided several candidates pursuing their doctoral programmes and has to his credit several CSIR sponsored research projects which were successfully completed. Prof Subbayyan was an advisor cum consultant on several projects connected with academics and industry. More than 50 of his research papers have been published in technical journals, seminars and conferences globally. He has served in more than 100 expert committees as Convener, Chairman and Member. His recommendations were accepted and implemented.
Dr R Subbayyan has visited over 100 educational institutions and has served on the Board of Studies in IIT Madras and several others of repute.
A list of awards received by Dr R Subbayyan will add to the luster of this note – First recipient of the National System Awards, Eta Kappu Nu Award (USA), Tau Beta PI (USA) Award, Sigma Xi (USA) Award, For the Sake of Honour Award (Rotary), Bharat Ratna M.Viswesvaraya Award and many others. He was also awarded the Honourary Fellowship by Indian Society for Technical Education, Fellow of National Academy of Engineering besides many more honours.
The contribution of Dr Subbayyan to technical education is immense. “I wanted to place some suggestions with regard some reforms and it was getting delayed. Prof G.R.Damodaran took me to A.Lakshmanaswamy Mudaliar, the iconic Vice Chancellor of Madras University.
I explained the new system to him and Mudaliar attended the next meeting. He asked me to propose it. He listened to the proposal and stated that it was nice and suggested that we introduce it. It was passed immediately,” smiled Prof R.Subbayyan.
Dr R.Subbayyan was the first Vice Chancellor of Bharathiar University and recalled a few instances connected with his role, “The Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran was keen to promote education. He was very receptive to ideas. I was invited to his residence for a breakfast discussion.
The university was to come up on a smaller campus. However I suggested that we should have a 1000 acre campus and not 100 plus acres. I told him that land acquisition cost will go up after the formation of the institution and it would be better to get it all in one go. He readily agreed and went ahead with the acquisition. The discussions took place at Ramavaram Gardens on a couple of occasions. I used to leave my house with lunch in a ‘thookhu’ and my wife Pankajakshi would call me a ‘thookhu thookhi VC’. I stayed in the bungalow meant for the Vice Chancellor for just one day,” chuckled the leader among teachers.
The Bharathiar University got the Bharathiar School of Management and Entrepreneur Development under Dr R.Subbayyan. A number of departments came up during his tenure. He ensured that ‘autonomy’ got to a large number of colleges. Dr R.Subbyyan is well travelled and he has shared his experiences with several new institutions. He has encouraged philanthropists and industrialists to start several educational institutions.
His qualifications are many – FNAE, B.A (Hon), M.Sc., DIISc., M.S., Ph.D, C Eng, FIE FIETE FSSI MCSI and a D.Sc. The semester pattern owes itself to him. He was also the education consultant for Asian Development Bank and Chairman of Assessment Committee & Consultant for Defence Research and Development Laboratories besides being a Director of ELCOT. The B.E, 5 year Sandwich Programme was introduced by him in our country. Prof R.Subbayyan was a champion advocate of the credit system. The list is endless.
—Rajesh Govindarajulu

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