Professor Jennie Mendes smiles when she is reminded of her 42-year-long association with Breach Candy’s Sophia College for Women. As one of the oldest faculty members, Mendes is just about three decades shy of celebrating a momentous occasion, alongside the institution.
The central facade of Sophia College for Women. Pic/Shadab Khan
On June 20, Sophia College will complete 75 years since it received an affiliation from the University of Mumbai for its Arts and Home Science programme, and opened its doors to the first batch of 25 girls. Today, with an intake of over 3,000 female students annually, the NAAC re-accredited ‘A’ grade college, has branched out to offer a range of courses in the arts, science, media and management streams.
The first batch of female students from the Arts and Home Science department that graduated from the college in the mid 1940s
As part of the platinum jubilee celebrations, the college will organise a host of events through the academic year, starting with an inauguration ceremony next month, where ex-principals of the institution will be felicitated. This will be followed by a gala dinner and charity event in November where ex-students and star alumni, including Congress leader Priya Dutt, filmmaker Kiran Rao and Anuradha Mahindra of Mahindra Group, will be invited. A two-day national-level conference on women’s education in the 21st century’ and workshop on parenting will be held later during the year. The key college festivals — Kaleidoscope and Ananya — will also be themed around the 75th anniversary, said a core committee member of the team that is organising the platinum celebrations.
Apart from this, the college is releasing a book, chronicling the history of the institution, during the academic year. Further, memorabilia like T-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs and bags, themed around the platinum celebrations will be on sale for students and outsiders through the year. “The college was started by a group of sisters from England in 1940. We received our affiliation a year later. At that time, there was a strong feeling that higher education was not accessible to women from all backgrounds, especially because parents were hesitant to send their girls to co-ed colleges,” says Dr (Sr) Ananda Amritmahal, principal of Sophia College, while speaking of the history of the Christian institution.
Recalling her time at the college, Prof. Mendes said, “I always wanted to become a counsellor, so after completing my studies at the college, I moved to Goa and started working there. Somewhere around that time, the then principal called me up, and requested me to substitute for a teacher. I came back with the intention of staying here for a while, but never ended up leaving.”
The sprawling campus, which is situated in the heart of Breach Candy, boasts of a 19th century building, Somerset House, which was once the property of the East Indian Company, before it was acquired by Badruddin Tyabi — former president of the Indian National Congress — in 1882. In the early 1900s, the Maharaja of Indore and, later, the Maharaja of Bhavnagar bought the place and used it as their summer home. Today, several buildings have been constructed around the structure. The campus also boasts of a manicured central lawn, triangular terrace and spiral stairs, which are popular haunts for students.