By Irudhaya Jothi
Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Niwas Mittal were among more than 5,000 people who braved heavy rains on July 7 to witness Kolkata’s 157-year-old St Xavier’s College turn into a university.
While Banerjee unveiled the plaque of a new building Mittal, an alumnus, cut the ribbon to open a new university building during a function at the Rajarhat campus of St Xavier’s University in Kolkata.
Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Calcutta blessed the marble statue of St. Xavier after a short prayer at the entrance.
Mittal flew down from London with his family and friends to attend the opening of the university’s first academic session.
He heads ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steelmaking company, that built the university’s new academic block the Lakshmi & Usha Mittal Foundation Building (Academic Block).
Chancellor of the newly erected university, Jesuit Father Jeyaraj Veluswamy, in his welcome address thanked Banerjee and Mittal for their generous and encouraging support.
Mittal, who was the guest of honor, recalled his days at St. Xavier’s and his unforgettable interactions with Belgian Jesuit academician Father Paul Jorris. He said he learned to take challenges and risks and did not regret any decision that he took and that helped him and his company to become number one in the world.
The chief minister exhorted the faculty and students to bring out their best. “I am a dreamer and I have a dream for this university that it will become the best like Harvard and Oxford,” she added.
Jesuit Father Felix Raj, the vice chancellor, thanked the chief minister for her giving the land and laying the foundation stone of the university campus.
The first batch will start with bachelor courses in commerce and masters in commerce, social work, communication and English.
“This is the beginning of S Xavier’s University -an academic journey,” Father Raj told The Times of India a day before the opening. “We could only achieve it with the support of many people including the state government. We’re grateful and I welcome the new students,” he added.
The vice chancellor said the next academic session will open business school in the university. The campus has a six-story academic block.