The Helmsmen Who Shaped the Destiny of Xavier’s

1. Fr. Thomas Kunnunkal, S.J (1962-1979), A Great Visionary

Fr. Thomas Kunnunkal,S.J. joined Xavier’s in 1962 as the principal. Fr. Edward Mann, S.J. was the Rector from 1965 to 1968. Fr. Gerald Grace, S.J. joined Xavier’s as Rector in 1968 and remained in the same post until 1972.

Fr. T. Kunnunkal was much responsible for the educational polices adopted in later years in Xavier’s. With his keen administrative ability, foresight and self-confidence, the school reached the status of being one of the most prestigious institutions in Delhi. He made the school a model school for Delhi. He was the principal till 1974 and then again from 1977 to 1979. Xavier’s is indebted to Fr. Kunnunkal for making it one of the much sought after schools in Delhi. By 1966 St Xavier’s was among the topmost schools on the map of Delhi with the encouragement of Fr. Kunnunkal whose motto was “Every Boy a winner”- be it in academics, games or extra curricular activities.

Fr. Kunnunkal as an educationist didn’t believe in catering to the needs of a select few from the elite class; but he gave the school a popular and a humane face. The school that was started as a predominantly boarding school in the old British hotel building, closed down its boarding facilities in 1969 in order to provide educational facilities to a larger number of students from this city. From 1972 the hostel buildings were utilized to accommodate the Theologate Vidya Jyoti. That changed the entire tone of the school. In fact exodus began in the mid 60’s with several of the original staff immigrating to Australia, Canada and America.

By 1973 the school had grown very remarkably. The senior and junior school buildings had come up- (all praise goes to Fr. Loesch. He literally died in harness). A large playing field came into being by leveling the ground occupied by a road that had cut across the present playing field. This was also the time when many of the buildings that stood between the senior and junior school buildings were demolished and the ground developed. Those buildings were employee’s quarters during the days of the Cecil Hotel. The large kitchen of the hotel was also demolished and open spaces were provided to the students.

Fr. Kunnunkal was awarded the Padma Shree in 1974 for his achievements in the filed of education. He was also the President and Executive Secretary of the Jesuit Educational Association from 1975 to 1977. He served the Central Board of Education from 1981 to 87, first as Vice-Chairman and later as its Chairman. He was also the founder of the National Open School. He served it first as its consultant and later as its Chairman (1989-92). In 1992 he took office as the Superior of the Delhi Jesuit region.

2. Fr. Thomas Athazhapadam

Fr. Thomas Athazhapadam,S.J. returned to Xavier’s as Rector in 1972 and remained in the post until 1978.

3. Fr. Abraham Puthumana

Fr. Abraham Puthumana, S.J. was the principal from August 1974 to August 1977. He received the full support and cooperation of all the staff- both teaching and non-teaching. He introduced many co-curricular activities to promote the all round development of the students. He would urge every student to compete with himself. It was during his time that the school abolished the competitive ranking and recognition in academics. Instead anyone who made noticeable progress was given recognition. During this period Xavier’s took initiative in forming the Educational Planning Group the initiative for which came from Fr. Thomas Kunnunkal. He had the whole hearted support of Mr. Jose Paul. For many years EPG did yeomen service to education and had been instrumental in both updating of teaching skills and in the production of excellent text books for class room use all over Delhi and elsewhere.

4. Fr. Joseph Paschal

Fr. Joseph Paschal, S.J. became the Rector in 1978.

5. Mr. J.A. Martins

Mr. J.A. Martins was appointed principal for one year- April 1979 to March 1980. He was the first lay member to join the management of Xavier’s. (Mr. Martins had joined Xavier’s in 1967 as a senior English teacher and later became the Head of the Department. He was the vice-principal from 1978 to 1983). He carried a very charismatic zeal which influenced many Xaverians. He took great interest in all the co-curricular activities. One of his greatest contributions was the Directory of the XOBAD (now DOXA). He took pioneering efforts in bringing out this directory for the alumni to keep in touch with each other.

6. Fr. Joseph Parakatt, S.J.(1980-’85)- Sounding the trumpet for changes

On 1st April 1980 Fr. Joseph Parakatt, S.J. (an M.Ed. in Secondary School Administration from Xavier University, Cincinnati, US) took over the reins of rule and continued up to March 1985- the Silver Jubilee Year. (He had joined Xavier’s in 1968 as a Physics teacher and hostel Prefect. Later he became the Assistant Headmaster, Vice-Principal and finally the Principal.) It was a transition period for Xavier’s.

Until 1980 Xavier’s maintained its old elitist image. The Jesuit educational policy underwent lot of changes after 1980 which was much responsible for what Xavier’s is today- socially committed, serving neighbours and making the school coed. As the new principal it was his policy to see that every Xaverian when he leaves the school should have the feeling of having developed his potentialities to the maximum. He realized that education means all round development, not stuffing the head with knowledge and information alone.

During Fr. Parakatt’s time Hindi was introduced as the medium of instruction at the primary level, giving due importance to English. Though many parents and teachers were equally concerned about the repercussions of this change what the school did was not anything unusual. It is indeed an international practice where the primary education is imparted in one’s mother tongue for better understanding of basic concepts. (How many of the Japanese or the Chinese or the Germans or the French begin to learn English before they master their own language?) The educational planners at Xavier’s knew that a child learns best in his own language. Today many schools in Delhi have realized the importance of imparting primary education in the mother tongue. However, we gave due credit to English as a medium of instruction.

Secondly, the Society of Jesus has always been concerned about the plight of the poor and the marginalized. With their General Chapter of 1974, the Jesuits developed more sharp awareness of the structural dimensions of injustice in human society and committed themselves to do what they could to create a just and humane society. It became the policy of the school to create an egalitarian society by providing quality education to all strata of society. Thus the school management decided to admit children from the socio-economically weaker sections of the society. 25% of admission was reserved for the children of economically weaker sections of the neighbourhood. It was a great service rendered to hundreds of children over the past many years, who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to avail of such quality education. Due to the active cooperation of the staff, students, parents and all other well wishers we have been able to set up a scholarship fund to help education of the economically weaker students in our school.

Again in the education of a child in today’s world an active cooperation of parents too is required. If the child lives far away from school this frequent parent-teacher interaction is not possible. Also the students will not able to use all the facilities provided by the school- like the playgrounds and the swimming pool etc if they live far away from the school. Hence Xavier’s decided to give up its ‘All Delhi’ image and admission was restricted to the students in the immediate neighborhood. It is heartening to see that Delhi government is now trying to follow these rules in all schools in Delhi.

For a mature and healthy emotional and psychological growth it is necessary that boys and girls should grow up together in the same institution. Hence in 1985 the boys’ only school also turned into a co-educational institution, giving the fair sex an opportunity to walk into its precincts and thus help children to grow up with better understanding of the opposite sex.

Fr. Parakatt was a campus pillar and a loving friend for all the students and the staff. He passed away on 5th September 2003 on the day when the nation was celebrating Teacher’s Day.

7. Fr. Richard Pereria, S.J.

When a little child enters the portals of an educational institution for the first time, it is very important that it survives the shock of separation from home. It has to find its new home as a warm place. With this view it was decided to have a separate block for the children of the Prep Class and the 1st standard. The PREP DEPARTMENT was thus inaugurated in 1985. It was well planned and directed by Fr. Richard Pereria, S.J. He was a seasoned educationist and the ex-principal of several Jesuit High Schools. It was his view that a child has to be taught how to think creatively. He envisaged that at this level children should not be subjected to examinations and homework. Thus there was a sense of joy pervading in the new Prep-Department. He was very sensitive, helpful, gentle and loving. He left Xavier’s on 22nd November 1998.

8. Bro. Ittoop Pallipadan (1985-1992)

Fr. Parakatt was succeeded by Bro. Ittoop Pallipadan (who had joined Xavier’s as the vice-principal in April 1983) in April 1985.

Bro. Ittoop served Xavier’s as principal till December 1992. For 10 long years he was an essential part of life at Xavier’s. He was universally loved by all. (On his retirement day students told him with great affection: “We’d do anything for you, Brother- EVEN STUDY!!”) He was an eminent Jesuit with qualities both of head and heart. He was deeply concerned about the development of each individual in Xavier’s. He handled all the problems in a humane manner and was appreciated by all for his good humour and warm rapport with everyone. The greatest quality he ever had was the command he had on all- he commanded all with love and with authority. He received ‘Raja Ram Mohan Roy Award for Teachers’ in 1991. He initiated the process for the computer education in Xavier’s. He also served on many different educational committees. He was a member of the NCERT team that was set up to monitor and evaluate Delhi Administration schools.

9. Fr. K.T. Thomas

As his contemporary Fr. K.T. Thomas S.J. joined as the Rector in 1984 and remained in the post until 1991.

Fr. K. T. Thomas was a very lively figure in the Xavier’s campus and was responsible for the various new changes initiated in the school including the change of medium as well as the co-education. He was formerly a member of the Bihar Board of Secondary Education.

10. Mrs. Anjali P. Dere

In March 1989 Mrs. Anjali P. Dere was appointed as the vice-principal when Fr. John Ari went abroad for higher studies. She was the first lady and the second non-Jesuit to join the administration in Xavier’s. Hers was a very popular choice. She was ‘well versed in Xavier traditions as well as the Jesuit approach to education’. In May 1994 she took an early retirement from school after having put in 22 years of dedicated service. She was being described as a ‘prized possession” of Xavier’s.

11. Fr. John Ari S.J (1992-1997)

Fr. John Ari,S.J. succeeded Bro. Ittoop in December 1992. As his contemporary we had Fr. Mathew Padayatty S.J. as the Rector as well as Director of the Prep Department from 1991 to 1997. Fr. Mathew was a suave, gentle and patient man of God. He had joined the senior school as the Economics teacher in 1975 and continued in the same post till 1983. He was also the co-moderator of XOBAD (DOXA) along with Mr. Martins. Before being appointed Rector he was also the Headmaster of Junior School from 1988 to 1991.

Fr. John Ari,had reached Xavier’s in 1985 as the vice principal. In 1989 he went abroad for doing his Masters in Educational Administration at Marquette University in the U.S. and returned to Xavier’s in 1991 as the Headmaster of the Junior School. Fr. John Ari believed that education is an experience, and not merely passing exams. He was very much reluctant to retain students due to poor academic performance. He also initiated the process of modernizing Xavier’s by expanding the computer lab for the students. He also started computerizing the office work in school. He wanted the overall development of all the students. It was Fr. John Ari who suggested the idea of class assemblies as an important platform for personality development. He bade farewell to Xavier’s in July 1997. (He also has the distinction of being the first Provincial of Delhi Jesuit Province.)

12. Mr. B. Miranda

On 2nd August 1994 succeeded Mrs. A. Dere in the vice-principal’s office. He had joined Xavier’s as a biology teacher in 1965. There was a post that he held from the beginning until he finally retired, i.e. the great music teacher of Xavier’s. He was man for all seasons- be it Music Fest, Play Festival, Club Activities or any other school functions his help and support was inevitable. No stage setting would be perfect with out his Midas’s touch. In 2001 he retired from the post of vice-principal and was appointed the Maintenance Supervisor. Accompanied by his accordion he filled the heart of every Xaverian with music for 44 long years before he finally singed off from Xavier’s campus in March 2009.

13. Fr. P.T. Augustine S.J. (1997-2001) - A period of modernization

Fr. P.T. Augustine S.J., an M. Phil from JNU, New Delhi, in International Affairs, took the baton of principalship of Xavier’s from Fr. John Ari in July 1997. He is an educationist par excellence who had over 30 years of experience both in schools as well as in colleges both as a teacher/lecturer and as an able administrator before he joined our school as principal. A recipient of “Dr. Radhakrishnan Award” for outstanding teachers, he reached Xavier’s during his ‘middle ages’ and stood as tall as an impeccable oak tree. A perfectionist himself, with his quest for EXCELLENCE through creative and imaginative changes, innovation and modernization, he breathed in a new enthusiasm in the minds of all teachers and students. He brought administrative, academic and infrastructural changes in all the institutions he served and Xavier’s, Delhi was no exception. For the first time in many years Xavier’s campus began showing changes. For Xavier’s he was the Fr. Loesch of the New Millennium. In 2000 Fr. Augustine built the ‘The Millennium Complex’ with modern facilities like two computer labs, a multimedia room, two English language labs, a creativity room and a large auditorium called ‘the Millennium Hall’ with a capacity to seat 1250 students. Life in Xavier’s changed after the inauguration of the hall. Students began spending most part of their school life here training and gaining confidence.

He spruced up the campus and face lifted many of its parts. (If anyone would find Fr. Augustine looking at a place in the campus lost in contemplation, it was sure the place would change soon!!) The garden in front of the Millennium Hall and the Junior School, the rock garden at the back of the senior school assembly ground- all originated from the imaginative mind of Fr. Augustine. He beautified the campus. (One day in the assembly, quoting W.B. Yeats, he told the students “I’ve spread my dreams under your feet; tread softly, for you tread on my dreams”.) Yes, he gave his best to St. Xavier’s, Delhi. To live, to love and to be loved, and to leave a legacy behind was basically the goal of his life. He enjoyed every moment of his life with the students, watching their struggle, their success as well as their failures. Since Xavier’s then appeared to be the penultimate lap of his long administrative career, it is true that he had left his heart behind here before he left for Kadmandu in March 2001. He was, however, destined to come back to Xavier’s, Delhi, as Rector in July 2009.

14. Fr. Thomas Kuriakose

Fr. Thomas Kuriakose, S.J. an ex-Xaverian of 1970-71 batch, joined Xavier’s as Rector in 1997 as Fr. P.T. Augustine’s contemporary. He remained in the post till he left Xavier’s on 5th March 2003, leaving behind his radiating smile for everyone to remember him by.

15. Fr. Xavier J. Ignatius, S.J. (2001-2005)

Fr. Augustine was succeeded by Fr. Xavier J. Ignatius, S.J. in March 2001. He served Xavier’s for six years (2 years as the Headmaster of the junior school followed by four years as the Principal). He was very dynamic, young and energetic, and a great disciplinarian who led by example. He brought in more participation among the staff by inducting three senior teachers as coordinators for discipline, activities and academics. Accordingly Mr. Santosh Joseph was appointed as Coordinator of Discipline, Mrs. Neera Verma was appointed the Coordinator of Activities, and Mr. A.K. Das the Coordinator of Academics. After Mrs. Nerma Verma retired Mrs. Marina Thomas became the Coordinator of Activities and after Mr. Santosh Joseph retired and Mrs. M. Thomas resigned and left for Mumbai, now Fr. Paul Wenish, S.J. looks after both the portfolios. (Just after her retirement from the Senior School in March 2004, Mrs. N. Verma also served the Junior School as the Headmistress for one year)

16. Fr. Jose Philip S.J. (2005 onwards)

On 6th April 2005 Fr. Xavier handed over the baton in the office of principal to the new incumbent Fr. Jose Philip S.J. Meanwhile Fr. Sebastian Assarikudy, S.J. was appointed Rector in 2003. With his unassuming personality Fr. Sebastian was able to win the hearts of every student and teacher in Xavier’s. His love for children was very much evident when he would stand in front of the Father’s Residence almost all little ones would come and shake hands with him before proceeding to the school bus in the afternoon. He was transferred to Loyola Institute, Shahbad, Badli in July 2009.

Fr. Jose Philip is not new to Xavier’s campus. He was appointed Assistant Headmaster of the Junior school in April 1990. He served Xavier’s as the Headmaster from December 1992 to March 1995. He then left for Jaipur St. Xavier’s as Vice-Principal and the Principal later on. He returned to Xavier’s, Delhi in 2005 after a gap of ten years.

Fr. Jose Philip has a passion for excellence and he wants every Xaverian to be worthy of being a true Xaverian before he/she leaves the portals of the school. He is a great father figure for all the Xaverians. He has introduced a new system whereby each student is continually assessed not only for excellence in academics but being excellent in the over all development of the personality. The 'Xaverian Excellence Award' has been instituted by him according to which each student is assessed based on his/her performance in academics, activities, sports and imbibing values. For him school education is not meant for creating doctors, engineers or technocrats but for creating good human beings, because he believes that all other positions without being humane is null and void and harmful to society in the long run. Other than developing the intelligence quotient of students what he is more concerned about is to develop emotional and spiritual quotients of every Xaverian.