Padma Bhushan Dr. Alagappa Chettiar
Early life & Education
Dr. RM. AlagappaChettiar had his primary education at the SMS Vidyasala in Karaikudi. He obtained postgraduate (M.A.) Degree in English literature in 1930 from Presidency College, Madras at the age of 21. He had the fortune of befriending Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, a model teacher who later on became the President of India. At the age of 21, he became the first Indian trainee at the Chartered bank in London. Thereafter he qualified for the bar at Middle Temple in England and became a bar-at-law to be cherished by the people of Chettinad. He was conferred a doctorate degree (D.Litt) by Annamalai University in 1943 and by the Madras University (LL.D.) in 1944. The British Government knighted him in 1945. He was conferred the distinction of Padma Bhushan by the President of India on January 26, 1957. His stellar record as a successful business entrepreneur was acknowledged by the British government when he was knighted in 1945 at the age of 37. He renounced the prestigious knighthood when India attained independence.
His stellar record as a business entrepreneur was acknowledged by the British Government when he was knighted in 1945 at the age of 37. He renounced the prestigious knighthood when India attained independence. Within a span of 2 decades he demonstrated his versatility as a successful business tycoon, an intrepid academician with a vision to change the mere scrub jungle of Karaikudi to an educational Mecca. When he passed away prematurely at the age of 48, Dr. AlagappaChettiar had redefined philanthropy and contributed more to the betterment of education in Tamil Nadu than any other person of eminence had done until then.
He launched his career by pioneering in textiles. As a business savvy and a model employer he practiced then, what the Harvard Business School preaches today diversification of portfolios with rubber plantations in Malaya, Tin mines in Burma, Textile Mills in Kerala, Insurance companies in Calcutta, Hotels in Bombay, Theatres in Madras, a flourishing stock broking company and a private airline and has been referred to as the unsung business Maharaja of South India in the thirties and forties. His business interests were however short lived as he changed his focus to education.
Dr. Alagappa in 1937 started Cochin textiles at Pudhukaddu near Trichurin Kerala. Cochin textiles were changedas Alagappa Textiles. The Township of Cochin textiles staff quarterswas named Alagappa Nagar. Alagappa Nagar is the first and only township named after Nagaratharin another state. He took charge of Managing the responsibilities of Jupiter General Insurance Company, East and West Insurance Company” and RitzHotels. He also functioned as Air Transport Company known as Jupiter Airways
Service to education
He harboured a firm conviction that education is an absolute must for a human being to become productive, wholesome and humane. In 1947 at the Dr. Annie Besant centenary celebrations the Vice-Chancellor of Madras University called industrialists to start colleges to educate India. Spontaneously Dr.Chettiar answered the call and within three days Alagappa Arts College started functioning at Gandhi Malighai in Karaikudi. His generous donations led to the establishment of a string of educational institutions, which formed the basis for the establishment of the Alagappa University in 1985 by the Government of Tamil Nadu.
The Alagappa University was established in 1985 fulfilling the dream of Dr.Alagappa. Alagappa Educational institutions is providing a continuum in education for children of the community to start from kindergarten and pursue studies right up to post doctratestudies in a wide array of subjects.
To bring prominence to the educational institutions he had the vision to convince Prime Minister Nehru to house one of the Governments National Research Institutes in the Alagappa campus. Dr. Radhakrishnan, the President of India saidat the opening of the Central Electro Chemical Research Institute (CECRI) on 14 Jan 1953. The magnificent gift of 300 acres of land by Dr. AlagappaChettiar helped the Government of India to select Karaikudi as the seat of Electro Chemical Research Institute. Being a businessman himself, Dr. AlagappaChettiar is aware of the industrial possibilities of our country and the need for scientific, technical and technological education. He has built a monument for himself you have only to look around.
At the tender age of 48, single handedly revolutionizing his native place and changing the course of history he succumbed to his illness. Perhaps his crowning piece of philanthropy was giving away his own palatial residence in Kottaiyur to found the Womens college. Rajaji has remarked, Dr. AlagappaChettiar had given away freely. Students should develop that quality namely giving money earned for charity. Dr.Alagappa is one who can give to a good cause, cultivate courage and emulate the spirit.
The Trusts that have been established by the Founder viz. the Asoka Charitable Trust and the Dr.Alagappa Chettiar Educational Trust are managing the Schools and have aggressive plans for expanding, to upgrade the quality of education and provide an opportunity for the youth of the country, to fulfill their dreams.
Dr. Alagappa Chettiar’s Philanthrophy
- In 1943 Dr. Alagappa Chettiar donated Rupees One Lakh for the installation & development of Tamil Department at Travancore University.
- Rupees Eleven thousand for instituting higher secondary school at his birth place Kottaiyur, Tamilnadu.
- Rupees Seventy five Thousand to build a Ladies hostel at Vepery, Chennai.
- Rupees One hundred thousand for the development of the township infrastructure at Kottaiyur, Tamilnadu.
- Rupees Thirty Thousand for Meenakshi club at Kandanur, Tamilnadu
- Rupees Ten thousand towards H.M.I.S Fund.
- Rupees Five hundred thousand to establish an Engineering College at Annamalai University, Chidambaram, Tamilnadu.
- Rupees Five hundred thousand to establish a College of Technology at Madras University, Acknowledging this donation, the Madras University named the institution “ AlagappaChettiar College of Technology” Guindy, Chennai.
- He was instrumental in persuading the Central Government to establish the one and only Central Electro Chemical Research Institute (CECRI), one of the premier Research Organizations under CSIR, at Karaikudi. He donated 300 acres of land. This gesture, earned him the title of Socialistic Capitalist from Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
- Rupees Five hundred thousand to establish Higher studies at Malaysia.
- Rupees Twenty Thousand to establish the South Indian Educational Society at New Delhi in 1948.
- Rupees Twenty Five thousand to the Lady Deck College at Madurai.
- Rupees One hundred and Seventeen Thousand for Constructing “ AlagappaMandapam” at Thakkar Baba Vidyalaya in 1946, The Foundation Stone was laid by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Father of the Nation).
- Rupees ten thousand and Five for publishing “ TAMIL KALANGIYAM” .
- Rupees ten thousand and one towards Cochin Cyclone Relief fund.
- Rupees Twenty thousand for Geological research to Travancore Government.
- Rupees One Lakh for establishing maternity Hospital and Child care Center in Cochin.
- Rupees Thirty thousand for the Indigenous medicine Research to Ernakulum Maharaja College.
- Rupees One hundred thousand to fund Students of Cochin to study abroad.
- Rupees One hundred and fifty thousand towards the morning food scheme for Cochin Children.
- Rupees One hundred thousand to establish South Indian Chamber of Commerce in Cochin.
Dr. Chettiar was full of compassion and gave whatever he had at the moment to the various causes. So the above list is just a small list of his generosity. His huge contribution for the betterment of this society is immeasurable.