American College, Madurai

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The American College
Pasumalai College, Madurai
The American College, Madurai 2.jpg
Motto Purificatus non consumptus (Latin)
Motto in English Purified, Not Consumed.
Established 1881
Type Autonomous
Academic affiliation MKU
Location Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India
9°55′44″N 78°07′55″E / 9.929°N 78.132°E / 9.929; 78.132
Campus Goripalayam, Madurai and Satellite Campus at Chathirapatti.
Sports Football, hockey, cricket
Second Logo of the American College designed by Professor J. Vasanthan

The American College, often referred to as American College, is one of the oldest colleges present in India. It is located in Madurai, Tamil Nadu state, south of India. It was founded in 1881 by American Christian missionaries. The college is situated in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. The red-brick buildings, in the Saracenic style of architecture, blend with the natural surroundings constructed by British architect Henry Irwin. The college was visited by eminent people including Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore who delivered a series of lectures on education in 1919.


The object of the college is to give the students a liberal Christian education, and to train them in the service of God. The college maintains a low faculty-student ratio. A major innovation is the choice-based credit system (CBCS). It is hoped that this will make education student-centered.


Main Hall of the American College, taken around 1905

Founded as a missionary in 1841 by the American Mission, the American College became a collegiate department in 1881. It was started initially as Pasumalai College established in 1881, under the initiatives of Rev.George.T. Washburn, the first principal of The American College he hails from the Great Washburn clan. The college was shifted to its present location during the period of Rev.W.M. Zumbro, its second Principal, who had his formal education at University of Michigan, University of Columbia and Yale University, made a proposal in the year 1903 to the Missionary in the United States to shift the College from Pasumalai to Madurai city . With more than 130 years of history behind, the college is remembered for its pioneering role in the cause of college autonomy. In 1913, it became a first grade college while the first girl student was admitted in 1921.[1] The motto verse in the logo of The American College and The Washburn University USA are still same purificatus non consumptus.[2][3]

The American College Main Hall building was constructed by Henry Irwin, who built the Mysore Palace and the Principal G.T. Washburn was influential in getting funds from the US.The building to the surprise of people of this generation was constructed at a cost of Rs. 52,000. The construction of the building was started in the year 1898 and was completed in 1904.[4]

Binghamton Hall was raised in 1930 in memory of William Zumbro, who masterminded the construction and landscaping in the college.The contributions from the people of Binghamton city made possible to build the Binghamton Hall of The American College which is the part of Science block.[5] Lady James Hall is the home for 100 years old Chemistry department along with Physics and Zoology department was built by the contributions by Lady Ellen S.James with Robert Chisholm. This is the first science building in Madurai. The seeds for the establishment of the physical sciences department was laid by American missionary Rev. Edgar Martin Flint who served the institution for 30 years between 1913 and 1943.The two-storey building constructed with bricks and mortar has withstood the time, producing thousands of science students from the southern districts. K S Krishnan, one of the co-scientists with Nobel Laureate C V Raman, and G Rajasekaran, emeritus professor involved in India-based Neutrino Observatory project are notable alumni of the college and went through the Hall. Seven of the alumni, who studied science in the Hall, later rose to receive Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology[6][7]

Daniel Poor Memorial Library in Madurai often abbreviated as DPM Library is the central library of The American College, It is one of the oldest libraries present in South India. DPM officially began its functions on June 28, 1915. In memory of Rev.Daniel Poor who was one of the pioneer missionaries of the American Board who started the American Ceylon Mission in Jaffna in 1816.[8][9] The Jubilee Chapel was dedicated in 1931 in commemoration of golden jubilee celebrations. The name Jubilee was adopted from the White Chapel of Senusret I.[5]

Rabindranath Tagore gave public lectures in the year 1919 in the Main Hall and collected Rs. 2,365 out of which he took Rs. 2,000 for Visva-Bharati University, Shantiniketan and gave Rs. 365 for starting an endowment in American College. Georges Clemenceau who led France in the First World War also delivered lectures in Main Hall and contributed the college.[2]

The college was one of the first set of seven colleges to be made autonomous by the UGC in 1977. The first college to introduce "Campus Inn" hostel system named after Washburn. Today the college offers eighteen undergraduate and thirteen postgraduate programmes. There are research centres offering M.Phil., and Ph.D programmes in various disciplines . There are other autonomous centres like Department of Applied Sciences (DAS) and The first college to introduce CBCS system and Student foreign exchange programme (Study abroad) in India. The postgraduate Department of Social Work was added in 1998. The college has theater groups, Social Service Schemes and NCC units that offer students opportunities to serve society. This institution of higher education is known for its focus on academic excellence.[10]

Study Centre for Indian Literature in English and Translation (SCILET)[edit]

Study Centre for Indian Literature in English and Translation (SCILET) receiving national and international attention was founded by Rev. Dr.Paul L Love in the early 1980s in order to show how important Indian Literature in English had already become.‘English Literature’ no longer means just the literature of England. SCILET is also facilitating the translation of regional language writing into English, so that literature written in such local languages as Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Telegu can be read in all parts of the country, not just in one state.Paul's teaching in India, which began with his appointment to overseas service with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in 1954, was interrupted by a year of graduate work in historical theology at Yale University Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut, and by longer periods of study and teaching at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where he earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in English. SCILET also sponsors activities such as lectures, seminars and poetry readings that present some of the best of these writers in person, enabling teachers, students and the research community to interact and become acquainted with them. And to further the cause of Indian literature in English SCILET has developed several publications, the best known of which is its annual poetry journal, Kavya Bharati, which includes in equal amount the work of established Indian poets and promising new voices.[11][12]


Candle-lighting day, a ceremony by final year students, is observed every year

There are 13 undergraduate and 12 postgraduate programmes of study in the college, with seven of these departments engaged in research. In addition to the usual programmes in the humanities and the sciences, the college offers courses in Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Microbiology, Computer Science, Business Administration and Social Work. Innovative courses such as Gender Studies, Dalit Studies, Folk Arts, Epigraphy, etc., are offered under the appropriate major programmes. An interdisciplinary dimension is attempted by requiring the science majors to take courses in the humanities and vice versa.The unique bachelors degree on Religion, Philosophy and Sociology jointly together as a department can be found only in the American College.

Many notable scholars worked for this institution some of them who bought real change in college education system are C. T. K. Chari, Karmegha Konar, K. K. Neelakantan, J. Vasanthan.

The American College for long had always provided the much needed space to discuss and debate issues affecting Dalits, women and other marginalised sections including the LGBTQIA and that it's not about patronizing the cause but to see it as a matter of rights discourse. [13]

Professor Dr.T. Chinnaraj Joseph Jaikumar, Senior advisor of University Grants Commission (India), Senior member of autonomy review committee National Assessment and Accreditation Council,[14] Senior visiting faculty of Pacific Lutheran University, Parkland, Washington.

The American College is the first college in India to introduce Third Gender literature and studies with research oriented seminar and the Tamil terms for Genderqueer people was coined in this college by gender activist Gopi Shankar.[15][16][17][18] The American College stands out as an exception in addressing these issues, the college’s B.A., programme in Tamil has an autobiography of a transwoman "The Truth about Me: A Hijra Life Story" by Transgender A. Revathi as part of the syllabus for Final Year students.[19][20][21]

In 2009, Red Hen Press published a selection of Avvaiyar's poetry from the 12th century, entitled Give, Eat, and Live: Poems by Avviyar. The poems were selected and translated into English by Thomas Pruiksma,[22] a poet and translator who discovered Avviyar's work while on a Fulbright scholarship at The American College.

Branches of Study:

  • Arts & Humanities wing
  • Science wing
  • Management Studies wing
  • Research wing
  • Co-curricular courses wing
  • Teaching, learning and assessments wing


College facilities[edit]

Annual Cultural Fest and Cultural Association[edit]

The Annual Cultural fest of The American College is very old in India. The official cultural festival was started in the year of 1915.

  • AMFEST - AMFEST is the annual cultural fest of the American College.
  • COMMAS - The Commerce association of the American College conducts an inter college cultural event called the COMMAS every year for two days. Colleges from all over Tamil Nadu participate in this function. The success of this function is evident from the funds that are granted by the business community in and around Madurai.
  • REPHISO - The Religion, Philosophy and Sociology association of the American College conducts National and International Seminar called REPHISO. Intellectuals, Philosophers, Sociologists, Social Activists around the globe use to participate in this. So far Swami Agnivesh, Aruna Roy, Medha Patkar, Prashant Bhushan, Harsh Mander are some of the notable philosophers and social activists who was guest of honor.
  • PEGASUS - The English Department Inter-collegiate literary fiesta famous for its Drama, Theater arts, Street Play. PEGASUS is also known as Opera of Madurai.

See also[edit]

Notable alumni[edit]


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  8. ^ Daniel Poor
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  19. ^ "Cities / Madurai : Madurai comes out of the closet". The Hindu. 2012-07-30. Retrieved 2012-10-10. 
  20. ^ name="indiatimes1">"Madurai student pens book on gender variants". The Times of India. 2013-06-04. Retrieved 2013-06-16. 
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