MSSW was founded on 5th August 1952. But it was neither a trust nor a society. In order to overcome this defect a society known as Society for Social Education and Research was formed in October 1960 under the Societies Registration act before the District Registrar and the serial number was 102 of 1960 to "take over and manage the Madras School of Social Work" besides other objectives. However, the constitution of the society suffers from serious legal infirmities. The first Governing Body of the Society consisted of 19 members.
Mrs. Mary Clubwala Jadhav, Mr. D.C.Kothari, Dr. N.Vasudeva Rao, Dr. H.M.Sharma and Mr. S.R. Venkataraman served MSSW till their last days. Mr. D.C. Kothari was the perfect choice for the position of Chairman of MSSW. Being a highly respected industrialist, his association brought prestige to MSSW. He never interfered with the administration of the School during the 40 years he was Chairman. Despite being chairman of a big corporate group, he found time to attend all the meetings and functions of MSSW whenever he was present in Madras. He was courteous to the faculty and knew each one of the faculty well. He was meticulous in observing the protocol expected of an industrialist-chairman of an educational institution. Mary and Decee (that was how he was addressed in close circles) were an excellent team. Dr. D.C. Kothari passed away in 1992. Dr, N. Vasudeva Rao was always conscious of his rotary membership and the three-piece suit which he wore even during the hottest days in Chennai. He succeeded Mrs. Jadhav as Honorary Secretary after her demise. Mrs. V.T. Lakshmi and Dr. A. Jayalakshmi Rao served MSSW as part-time Honorary Directors during the initial years. Dr. P.T. Thomas and Dr. K.V. Sridharan were academics. Mr. K.N. George, on the other hand, never claimed any academic distinction. He was a gregarious and easily accessible Director of MSSW. He was outstanding in public relations and could get any work done with the bureaucracy. He was friendly to the students and helpful in placement. He was, undoubtedly, the most popular teacher in MSSW. In the development of MSSW, particularly during the first four decades, the contribution of Mr. George has no parallel.
Looking back, I have great pride and immense satisfaction with the phenomenal performance of the alumni and alumnae of MSSW. MSSW is neither like an IIM, nor like an IIT. It attracted students with average academic record without CAT or JEE. But they on completion of the social work course have been doing outstanding service in alleviating human misery and suffering on the one hand, and in developing and managing human resources on the other which is comparable in scale, intensity and magnitude with those who passed out from institutions with a Brand. In community service and corporate leadership, they have reached great enviable heights. They also excel as top class academics in India and abroad. World class institutions in treatment and rehabilitation of substance used disorders, and in mental health have been created by two alumnae. Many are social innovators and social entrepreneurs . In the field of Human Resources Management their contribution has been path breaking. One alumnus has given global leadership in ageing. Some are highly rated motivational speakers and trainers. Some have written good quality ,authoritative books on different subjects. Some are successful in business. One became Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) and another is politically active as Councillor and party representative in Australia. One was honoured with Padma Shri in India, while another was decorated with the prestigious title Dato in Malaysia. I can go on narrating their achievements which are legion.
What MSSW did was to trigger the innate abilities of its students who brought out their full potentials with the passage of time and life experiences. One important contributory factor was the very nature of social work education itself with its thrust on field work as much as on class room instruction. In other words learning by observing and doing. The teachers taught less and the students learnt more. Another factor was the learning and co-curricular environment where students of both sexes were never discouraged from interacting freely, and where the learners were never inhibited from expressing themselves. Individual conferences of students and teachers, and joint evaluation of field work by the students and the faculty also were enabling factors.
I completed the postgraduate Diploma in 1963 and worked some years at the Department of Social Work at Karnataka University. In September 1967, I joined the Madras School of Social Work. Mrs. Radha Paul at that time was looking after the short-term training programmes besides teaching responsibilities. I was entrusted with the research activities, curriculum development and all academic matters, preparation of different project proposals, etc besides teaching work. At that time Mr. N. Ram of The Hindu used to visit me .MSSW was struggling to get itself affiliated to the University of Madras. He wrote a good feature on MSSW "A Postgraduate Institution Outside the University".
Mrs. Radha Paul organised various training programmes for government officials (Probation Officers, Jail Officials, etc).She was also the National Service Scheme (NSS) Co-ordinator. A major training programme was the one for Judicial Officers like judges. She managed the training programmes in an admirable manner.
MSSW secured research grant from the US Govt, UNICEF, FAO, govt of India, Tamilnadu govt, and other bodies for different research studies. The earlier generic Diploma course was converted into a specialisation programme. Most state govts recognised the Diploma for employment. Tata Institute of Social Sciences recognised it as equivalent to its MA (SW). This was followed by the visit of a govt of India team resulting in the recognition of DipSSA equivalent to the Master's degree of Indian Universities by the Ministry of Education and the Inter-University Board. The only elusive academic issue was the affiliation with the University of Madras,
The physical infrastructure of MSSW was built with funds from two German donor organisations for training for social causes. The Catholic donor agency MISEREOR (now a part of Cordaid) funded the construction of the men's and women's hostels with residential quarters for Wardens, and the purpose was training youth welfare workers and other grassroot welfare personnel. The school building with four floors, an auditorium and a conference hall was constructed with financial support from the German Protestant donor organisation EZE. The objective was training personnel for poverty alleviation programmes. Some former students associated closely with MISEREOR and EZE helped secure the funds, and Mr. George did effective follow-up communication.
Late Dr. Malcolm Adiseshaiah, famous educationist and economist, set up the Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS) with his personal money after retiring from the UNESCO as its Deputy Director General, which later became an institute of national importance. Dr. Adiseshaiah was fully aware of the problems of MSSW. At that time AIR organised a discussion on caste disabilities. Dr. Adiseshaiah was the key speaker. I was also invited. Unexpectedly there was some technical problem causing delay of more than an hour. Dr. Adiseshaiah spent that time to discuss MSSW and its needs. He heard me patiently. At that time, I did not know that he was chosen Vice-Chancellor of the Madras University. Soon he took charge as VC. In his three-year action plan, one announcement was the affiliation of the MSSW with the Madras University. It was an unusual step by an unconventional VC. Soon the University appointed a three-member committee to inspect the MSSW and give report on the eligibility of MSSW for affiliation with the Madras University. Soon the Syndicate approved the affiliation of MSSW and the first batch of students for the MA (SW) course was admitted in 1977. At that time the status of the DipSSA was left unresolved. I met Dr. Adiseshaiah with a representation of the management and presented the case of the hundreds of Diploma holders. He promised quick action and the following Syndicate meeting resolved that DipSSA would be treated equivalent to MA(SW) of the Madras University for teaching, research and employment purposes.
T K Nair