My undergraduate reunion in Kanpur, India
I just returned from re-union of my undergraduate class in Kanpur, India. Over twenty of us from both the USA and India showed up, several with familes. A photo of a local newspaper article about the re-union is at the bottom of this article.
As a college, my trans-formative years were spent at a very special place in India, where I arrived prior to turning seventeen. Established with assistance from a US Agency for International Development (USAID) program and with participation of nine top American universities (Caltech, where I later taught the India workshop, MIT, Princeton, UC Berkeley, Purdue, Case Western, etc.), the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur was the largest ever educational venture by the United States outside its borders at the time. Part of a collection of five such IITs, the colleges admitted just 250 undergraduates at each campus at the time. The bachelor’s program in engineering ran five years at the time and virtually all students and faculty lived on a campus some distance from the industrial city of Kanpur, where I had grown up. In fact, I earlier spent 11 years at the “Methodist High School” from Grade I to XI, and we happened to have methodist missionaries from the United States as Principals at the time (Miss Evelyn M Strader, from North Carolia, during most of my duration).
IIT Kanpur was among the first colleges in India to let professors grade all students, even for “Final exams”, it also introduced the ideas of humanities and social sciences as a required part of a technical education and it required a strong foundation in science, followed by engineering science in the first half of our stay. We had just one “engineering” (or Technical Arts as they called it) class for each of the first five semesters. These were groundbreaking ideas in India at the time. Decades later, IIT Kanpur continues to rank often as the Number 1 engineering school in India, when compared in the India Today surveys. It is almost always in the top five.
My friendships and professionals relationships from those days have held up as I moved to the United States and my career has progressed into many different fields. I am sure many readers have similar special experiences from their youth. What I learned not only in the classrooms but also in the dorm room discussions and gathering since graduation holds me in good stead in the “real” world today.