Madras Christian College traces its origin to the General Assembly School founded by Rev. John Anderson, a Missionary from the Church of Scotland, on April 3, 1837. The school had a humble beginning with just 59 boys and housed in a rented building in the Armenian street in the Black Town of Madras. Anderson was a pioneer in introducing English medium education in South India. He soon opened branch schools in the neighboring towns like Conjeevaram, Chingleput, Nellore, and other places in Madras like Triplicane. Anderson's colleagues Rev. Robert Johnston, Mrs. and Rev. John Braidwood, and converts such as Rev. P Rajagopal lent an able hand in successfully running these schools.
Anderson carried out several bold academic experiments such as monitorial and tutorial system of teaching and evaluation, opening up education for females and oppressed sections of the society, staring a periodical called Native Herald. His uncompromising Christian convictions led Anderson to fight several evils of the day. He and his wife Margaret Locher sacrificed much for building the Institutions, and their tombs in a Madras cemetery are a silent witness to their ultimate sacrifice, and love for an alien land and culture.
Rev. William Miller
The Rev. William Miller, just 24 years old arrived in 1862, and was destined to become the greatest architect of the College. Within two years of his arrival, Miller upgraded the School into a college adding F.A. (1865) and later B.A. (1867) courses. With the support of few other Protestant Missions in Madras, Miller transformed the Institution into an ecumenical, co-operative enterprise, and named it Madras Christian College on January 1, 1877. With his bold academic vision combined with generous contributions from his family, the Government, and many philanthropic old students, Miller raised most impressive facade of buildings opposite the present High Court, and also Hostels in the service of the needy students. The various societies, associations, and fora of the College gave ample opportunities for students to develop their leadership qualities. Miller's catholic vision, personal touch, fight for the social causes, combined with his contributions to education, endeared him to generations of students, and the College became a household name in South India. He was ably assisted by Scottish colleagues such as Skinner, Hogg, Meston as well as Indian teachers such as Rungiah Chetty, Chinnathambi Pillay and Joseph Muliyil.
The rapid expansion of the College and the paucity of the space necessitated the shifting of the Institution to a more spacious place. Accordingly, the College under the Principalship of Skinner initiated the Tambaram Project in 1919, which was single most audacious and challenging decision ever taken in the history of the College. Rev Gordon Matthew as the Town Planning secretary skillfully negotiated with the Government, which had graciously alienated 390 acres of the former Selaiyur forest land in Tambaram. While Mrs. and Prof. Edward Barnes meticulously planted rare tress and worked out the physical landscape, the Swiss architect Henry Schaetti carved the impressive buildings on the new campus.
The 'Great Migration' took place in the year 1937, exactly after 100 years of stay in the heart of the city. On 30th January, Governor Erskine declared open some buildings. The academic life and character smoothly transposed into the sylvan, idyllic site of Tambaram. The Hostel set up was soon to give birth to three Halls of residence--Selaiyur, Thomas' and Heber. Women students were admitted on regular basis from 1939 and a hostel for them came up in Guindy in 1950.
Dr. Alexander Boyd
What Miller was to Black Town era, was Dr. Alexander Boyd for the early Tambaram era. Boyd as the illustrious Principal of the college for 18 long years between 1938 and 1956 further enhanced the reputation of the College, in shaping the institution in the new environs, and in the midst of testing times of independence struggle. Nonetheless, the College witnessed great progress. Several Postgraduate departments came into existence, and the number of staff and students phenomenally increased. The buzzing Hall life and its traditions, both sound and silly, transformed the College into a much sought after destination for higher education in India The Rural Social League, the Pammal leprosy center etc., added to the social vision of the College. Dr. J.R. Macphail was last of the great Scots to serve the college as Principal between 1956 and 1962.
Dr. Chandran Devanesen
A new era dawned in 1962 when Dr. Chandran Devanesen took over as the first Indian Principal, who further expanded the academic horizons of the college involving the neighborhood community. Educated at Cambridge, and securing a Harvard-Doctorate, and imbued with Gandhian vision, Devanesen transformed the College into a reputed academic community. Several buildings and Projects such as the Zoology building, Women's lounge, Farm, Guest House, Macphail's Arts center, Faculty residences tell the success story of this 'Devanesen Decade'.
The year 1978 was a milestone in the academic life of the College when the Institution was granted Autonomy, which has helped the college to carry out many academic innovations and remains at the cutting edge of knowledge. Another distinct academic achievement in recent years has been the introduction of the Choice-based Credit System.
170th Year Celebrations
Spiritual vitality, academic excellence, social relevance, leadership and character formation have always been the defining marks of the Institution. Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, who took part in the 170th year celebrations on 23rd February 2007, paid an eloquent tribute to the history and contribution of MCC in just one sentence: "It takes 365 days for the earth to go around the sun once a year. Madras Christian College is 170 years old, which means that the College has gone around the sun 170 times."