People often wonder how I have been able to commit five years of my life to an organization. Well sometimes I have wondered too. This is the longest time I have worked at any organization in my life and I am still happy working here. This is not very characteristic of people of my generation who are known for changing jobs when faced with the slightest hurdle or sometimes just for a change of scenery and people perhaps.
As I reflect on my experience the obvious facts that come to my mind, which could be reasons why I have ended up serving here for half a decade, include the values that FC College has that students and teachers alike adhere to, the rich history of over 140 years of academic excellence, the vast campus with lush greens and historic buildings, and a vibrant and diverse student body, located in the heart of Lahore. Being an academic with a research interest in branding and brand management, my natural curiosity led me to take a close look at the calendar for the year 2012 which was special in many ways. The calendar is a tribute to the principals, the torch bearers, who have served the institution from its inception till the present years. My perceptions were that it would be a trip down the rich history of the college and I was looking forward to the experience that awaited me. As I opened my copy of the calendar, I kept flipping it, and a revelation dawned on me. I knew exactly why I had been able to serve this college for long. The reason why I still have so much verve when it comes to designing my courses and delivering the lectures ensuring the course content is up-to-date and relevant. I am a part of a legacy here; knowledge and thought leadership combined with a progressive approach is instilled in the institutional fabric due in large part to the spirited academics who dedicated a significant part of their lives to this institution.
Once I was done reading the stories covered in the calendar I was almost hopping and skipping with an energy that gushes through me only at times when I feel extremely excited. I was reading aloud some of the highlights from the calendar to the designers and engineers sitting in the design consultancy where I have been consulting for years. My audience was thrilled and surprised by some of the details that I had to share about FC College.
Rev Clarles Forman came to India in 1847, and settled in Lahore in 1849. Rang Mahal School was established in Lahore by Rev Charles Forman and Rev John Newton as the first Anglo-vernacular school in Punjab. A college which would later be known as Forman Christian College was added in 1864. Dr Forman was the first principal of the college. He continued teaching till his death despite his ill health. The copy of the calendar reads that “as his funeral cortege passed the streets of Lahore, hundreds of Muslims and Hindus stood to pay their respects to a champion of education”. My heart soared as I read it. A personal detail makes this even more meaningful and memorable for me. When I discussed this detail with my father-in-law, I learned that my father-in-law, Col. Shuja-ud-din Qureshi, studied there from 1953-1963. Also his father, Ibrahim Qureshi, had studied from the Rang Mahal School from 1915-1921. This was a fascinating twist. I am an Assistant Professor at an institution which has a role in making my daughter’s grandfather and great grandfather as incredibly amazing as they are. The father of one of my brother-in-laws, Jamil Zaidi, has taught in FC College. I often have very interesting discussions about the progress of the College with Uncle Jamil. It is amazing how FC College is a conversation starter between people. My brother-in-law, Manzar Zaidi, did his PhD in counter terrorism and later worked in an official capacity with Dr Saeed Shafqat at the Center for Public Policy & Governance (CPPG) at FC College.
It might come across as a surprise to readers that Sinclair Hall, which is one of the most glorious buildings in the College, is designed by the architect of Minar-e-Pakistan. Naseer-ud-Deen Murad Khan was the architect of Minar-e-Pakistan which is definitely one of the most beautiful monuments of Pakistan. I was awestruck when I read this. I now fully comprehend why Sinclair is the central beauty of the entire College, why its rooms have so much character, and why its aura is so magnificent behind the fountain where it is located. As you are walking towards Sinclair, you just keep looking at its details with wondrous eyes. Regardless of whom you are walking with or what academic discussion you are engrossed in, the charm of Sinclair Hall will distract you from everything and draw you to single mindedly to it. When Karen Armstrong came to Pakistan to promote her Charter for Compassion, it was the Sinclair Hall where she delivered her ever so eloquent lecture. The fact that two college hostels were converted into a small hospital to treat wounded refugees from East Punjab during the troubled time of partition makes for another fascinating and heart wrenching detail. This was the very foundation for what was later to become the United Christian Hospital. The fact that FC College was the first coeducational college in the Subcontinent exemplifies the progressive approach that helped build this great institution.
FC College was nationalized in 1972 and it saw a troubled time of extreme student politics, lack of leadership etc. It is heartbreaking that an institution that took years to build was in shambles. FC College was denationalized in 2003. In 2004 it became a chartered university and Dr Peter H. Armacost became the Rector. He has introduced American style liberal arts Baccalaureate Honors program, which is unrivaled in Pakistan. The School of Management was set up in 2005 with a purpose built, state-of-the-art building. Other faculties have been strengthened and new postgraduate programs have been introduced. A pleasant change in scenery marked by tall new red-brick buildings welcomes the Alumni when they visit the college.
The general environment is Pakistan is not hopeful as such and referring to it as a little depressed might be an understatement. In such times, the story of FC College which is quite a legacy really, gives one hope and much reason to cheer. If I was a teenager selecting options in Pakistan for Baccalaureate studies, I would probably want to join this institution. We at FC College take much pride in our history and that gives the institution a character which is unmatched. We aspire and work towards making a positive change in the society which gives us optimism and the energy to do something meaningful. We have been in the industry for long enough to know what it takes to build an institution and shape a human being with a character. I am so glad to be a part of this change which is amongst the few good things that have happened in this country in recent years. So what if there were bad years! As one of my students said that it does not matter if we had 30 bad years during nationalization. We had 120 good years as well!
A coveted legacy spanning over a century of academic excellence, combined with a committed faculty educated from prestigious universities, and a hungry student body willing to put in whatever it takes to make a difference – this is a competitive advantage that is rock solid and a strong reason to believe.