Rev Dr Gee Varghese Panikker
Rev Dr Gee Varghese Panikker was the principal of Mar Ivanios College from 1961 to 1979, the longest stint in the history of the college. This was also the period, considered the Golden Years of the College by most Alumni. A period when, the college made the most notable strides in its journey to its current high status. It is only most appropriate that we keep his memories alive and vibrant, especially in the campus.
Laying The Foundation Stone for the Fr Panikker Research Block
Rev Dr Geevarghese Paniker – In Memoriam
Geevarghese was born on 1 April 1924 as the eldest child of C.G Thomas Paniker and Achiyamma at Karichal, in Alapuzha district. His parents were teachers. They belonged to the renowned Mallitty Paniker family. He passed his Matriculation from N.S.S High school, Karuvatta, Alapuzha. Then he decided to follow the foot-steps of his grand uncle, Mar Ivanios and joined the seminary for priestly training. He completed his priestly studies at the Papal Seminary, Kandy, Ceylon. Archibishop Mar Ivanios ordained him as priest in the Papal Seminary on 24 August 1949.
On his return to Trivandrum the Archbishop directed him to pursue higher studies in University College and he took his B.A Honours degree in English literature. Then he joined as lecturer in the English department of Mar Ivanios College. Thereafter he went to U.S. and he took Ph.D in English literature from the Catholic University, Washington D.C. On his return he joined the English Department of Mar Ivanios college. He became Vice-Principal in 1959. In 1961 he was elevated to the rank of the Principal, a post he held until his retirement in 1979. During this eighteen years tenure, he steered the college from infancy to fullness. Rev. Dr. Geevarghese Paniker came to be popularly known as ‘Panikarachen’.
Before the implementation of direct payment private college teachers were paid their salary from the resources of the concerned management. The teachers in his college never experienced any salary deficit. Both the management and ‘Panikerachen’ share its credit.
Certain occurrences during his tenure were tests to his competency. The curriculum change from one year pre-university to two year pre-degree doubled the number of students and classes. Then Mar Ivanios College started to admit girl students to become a coeducational. This was also the period of peak political activism of students. From 1961 to 1972 the private college teachers were agitating with the demand for implementation of service conditions and direct payment.
He had to face these odds. His personal qualities helped him to withstand the test of the times. Honest and down to earth he did not brook any nonsense from any one, nor did he mince words when the situation so demanded. He was a very strict and very firm disciplinarian. To quote Oliver Goldsmith ‘A man severe he was and stern to view’. Sometimes his strictness bordered on hardness or harshness; still everyone loved him because they knew that beneath his roughness beat a heart of gold. He was always fair and just to others. He did not allow prejudice or favouritism or partiality to tarnish his decisions. He always kept his word. Like his mentor, Mar Ivanios he was an ascetic fully committed to Christian teachings. Despite the busy schedule he found time for serious reading and writing. Except for a subsistence allowance he did not take any salary for himself. He lived a simple life.
Students loved him. Their parents respected him. The teachers trusted him and supported him in academics, maintaining discipline and managing crisis situations. They functioned as an efficient team. Teachers accepted his leadership. On special occasions like preparation for admissions and Union elections a few of the teachers use to sit with him throughout night making adequate arrangement. The general public held him in high esteem. During college admissions he gave consideration to the students of the locality and poor background. He was available to listen to teachers, students, their parents and others and to respond.
The regard of the students and the public towards him was made explicit at the time of his retirement. In a meeting conducted in the college students prostrated before him on the stage seeking his blessings. A few embraced him and two students even dared to kiss him on the cheek. These were touching scenes. At a public meeting held in his honour in the Senate Hall of the Kerala University, high tributes were paid to him by Ministers, Syndicate members, Academicians, Authors, old students and Public figures. His old students donated him a new Ambassador car.
Most of the old students of Mar Ivanios who attained luminary status in International organizations, politics, government, administration, health care, cinema, music and other fields studied in the college at his time. Oliver Goldsmith’s words aptly refer to him; “A man he was to all the country dear, passing rich with forty pounds a year”. A former education minister of kerala, C.H. Muhammed Koya qualified his period of principalship as ‘ the golden years of Mar Ivanios College’. What a rich tribute!
After his retirement he became the Rector and president of St. Joseph’s Mangalapuzha seminary, Aluva, from1979 to 1985. Thereafter he became the first Rector of St. Mary’s Malankara Seminary. Then he moved to Kottayam accepting the post of Dean of Studies of St. Ephrem Institute of Ecumenical Research Institute. He spent the final years of his life in a home in the compound of Assissi Atonement Hospital, Kundara, Kollam. His demise happened on 28 Decembr 2008. The body was interred in St. George Syro-Malankara Catholic Church at Paranthal, Adoor, beside his parents.