Charisma of first Indian principal

2 Nov

She was bold, charismatic and an intellect who created history by becoming the first Indian principal of Isabella Thoburn College. WhenPrem Nath Dass succeeded Mary E Shannon in 1939, the country was still under the British rule.

First as a student and then as a principal, Dass provided dynamic leadership to the college during a momentous phase of the Indian National Movement from 1939 to 1945. Prem Math’s grand daughter and educationist Amrita Dass, also an alumnus of IT College, recalled: “During her time, eminent national luminaries likeJawaharlal Nehru and Subash Chandra Bose used to address the students. Such activities gave boost to Indian nationalism and fostered pride in our rich cultural heritage.”

Amrita further recalled that she first stepped into the college at the age of five holding her grandmother’s hands. “It was then that I wanted to be a part of IT,” she said. With her impressive academic achievements, Prem Dass was also the first woman to top the MA exam at Allahabad University. “She achieved it when higher education eluded most of the Indian women. That was definitely a pride moment for our family,” said Amrita. Prem Dass was also awarded the Phi Beta Kappa, the highest US scholastic recognition.

For Prem Dass, college was her second home. Even after retirement, she regularly visited the college and gave talks to the students on moral education, ethics, leadership, and womanhood. “First, she was an Indian, and second, a woman. But even after this, she occupied such a position which inspires me,” said Amrita.

In 1947, Prem was invited to give talks across US and Canada on issues ranging from the emergence of Independent India to women’s empowerment.

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