For the first time since it was established in 1869, St Xavier’s College in Dhobi Talao will have a principal who is not a Jesuit priest. Breaking away from its tradition of appointing priests from the Jesuit order of the Roman Catholic Church as principals, the college has chosen Agnelo Menezes, an associate professor in the economics department, as its head starting next month.
The selection process for the new principal concluded on Monday and Menezes’ appointment was announced by current principal Father Frazer Mascarenhas to the college staff through an email on Wednesday. Menezes, 58, an alumnus of the college, will take over after Mascarenhas’ term gets over at the end of this month.
Mascarenhas became principal in 2003, and during his tenure, the 146-year-old college received autonomy from Mumbai university.
Last year, Mascarenhas was in the news for criticising the Gujarat model of development just before the general elections. The college is affiliated to the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities.
Menezes has more than 27 years of teaching experience at the degree level, 19 years of which he spent at TK Tope Arts and Commerce Night College, Parel. He joined the degree section of St Xavier’s College eight years ago. He completed his PhD in 2009 on ‘The contribution of rag pickers in Mumbai through the informal economy in the recycling sector.’
Menezes told HT, “These days, most Jesuits are looking forward to a collaboration with lay persons to run educational institutes based on the Jesuit philosophy. It is a welcoming change. Eminent Jesuit priests have served as principal of the college. I believe that I will keep up the tradition.”
Menezes said research facilities will be his top priority. “My aim is to make the college a research hub. I also think that research-oriented syllabus will help students. I intend that the college, which currently has autonomous status, should be recognised as a deemed university soon,” Menezes added.
Menezes’ appointment has been well-received by teachers of the college. Anita Rane, head, ancient Indian culture department, and a member of the college’s management board, said, “Keeping up with the times, our college will get the first non-Jesuit principal. Menezes was the most deserving candidate. He is popular among all the students and professors and is an able administrator. He has worked for blind and underprivileged students. The college will attain new heights in his tenure.”