St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus was a pragmatic idealist. He was born on December 24, 1491. His birthplace was the great castle of Loyola in Spain. Both his father, Don Beltran, lord of Onaz and Loyola, and his mother were of ancient and illustrious lineage. He was a slight, handsome, high-spirited boy, with the Spaniard's pride, physical courage, and ardent passion for glory. He was sent by his father to go and live in the household of Juan Velasquez de Cuellar, one of King Ferdinand's provincial governors, at Arevalo, a town of Castile where he was taught little more than how to be a good soldier, an accomplished horseman and courtier. When he was twenty-five, he enlisted under a kinsman, the Duke of Najera, saw service in border warfare against the French in northern Castile and Navarre, and won a captaincy. The event that utterly changed the course of his life was the defense of the fortress of Pampeluna, the capital of Navarre. During this hotly contested battle against the French, which Ignatius led, he showed great bravery against heavy odds. He was hit by a cannon ball that broke his right shin.
The French looked after the young captain's wounds and then sent him in a litter to his father's castle, some fifty miles away. The shattered bone, badly set, was now re-broken and set again, a crude operation which left the end of a bone protruding. Anaesthesia was still in the distant future, and Ignatius endured this, as well as having the bone sawed off, without being bound or held. Afterwards his right leg was always shorter than the left.
One day, while he was confined to his bed, he asked for a popular romantic book, “Amadis of Gaul”, to while away the hours. This book about knights and their valorous deeds could not be found, and instead he was given – “The Golden Legend”, a collection of stories of the saints, and a Life of Christ. He began to read with faint interest, but gradually became so immersed and so moved that he spent entire days reading and rereading these books. He gradually came to realize the vanity of these worldly passions. He observed that the thoughts which came from God filled him with peace and tranquility. Towards the end of his convalescence he reached the point of dedication; henceforth he would fight for victory on the battlefield of the spirit, and achieve glory as the saints had done.
From a soldier of the king of Spain, he decided to become a soldier of Christ and work for the higher values of life. He gave up his family and friends, spent time in prayer, went to the University to acquire a degree and soon after gathered a team to work as soldiers of Christ and named the society he founded as the Society of Jesus, popularly known as Jesuits.
Ignatius and his companions were always on fire to help others and transform the lives of others with concern, compassion and conscience. The motto, Ad majorem Dei gloriam" (To the greater glory of God), was the end for which he and the Society existed. The French historian Guizot, in his “History of Civilization”, wrote of the members of the order, "Greatness of thought as well as greatness of will has been theirs." Ignatius directed the Society of Jesus for fifteen years. At the time of his death there were 13,000 members, dispersed in thirty-two provinces all over Europe, and soon they were to be established in the New World. Ignatius died, after a brief illness, on July 31, 1556. By that time the Jesuits were present in several institutions of higher learning.
Today there are around 18,000 Jesuits across the world. They work in several universities and colleges, social centres, media houses, among refuges, indigenous communities, the young and the not so young, the poor and the impoverished. In India Jesuits number more than 3000 and they administer some of the top colleges of the country – St. Xavier’s Colleges in Mumbai, Kolkata, Ranchi and Ahmedabad, Xavier Labour Relation Institute of Jamshedpur, XIME of Bhuvaneshwar, Loyola College in Chennai, St. Joseph’s College in Bangalore, Darjeeling and Trichy. They are also involved in number of other social and educational programmes to empower the powerless. The educational objective of all these institutions is to prepare agents of change in society who will stretch out their neck in the cause of justice for the poor and the deprived and make a difference to society. Jesuit educational institutions are famous, and many individual Jesuits have achieved distinction as teachers, scholars, scientists and writers. St Joseph’s Evening College is a unique Jesuit institution in the service of the marginalized communities.
When they thought of St. Joseph’s Evening College, Bangalore, the founding fathers of the college had a dream similar to the framers of the Constitution of India. In their own little way, it was their desire and determination to contribute to an India of equality, fraternity and justice. Besides being educators, through extension activities of the college they became conscious of the large number of young people who could not afford the luxury of a full time education due to reasons of poverty and deprivation. While St. Joseph’s College catered to the needs of a section of the public, they were concerned about those excluded from higher education. In 1968, the college added an evening section to “include the excluded” as the first step. With the rush of students to the evening section, the management resolved to establish St. Joseph’s Evening College as an independent one in 1970. In 1972 the syndicate of the Bangalore University constituted it as a separate college. The consequence of that decision has positively impacted generation of students. With a separate building and a separate faculty, the college was able to cater to the multi-dimensional needs of the students.
As long as the college was permitted to participate in university tournaments, the college was often Bangalore University champions in football, hockey and cricket. Since only working students were permitted to enroll in the college, the Bangalore University decided not to allow evening college students to participate in university sports and games. However the college continued to encourage sports and games through inter-class matches on Sundays. The annual sports meet still continues to be a great festival of sportsmanship. Cultural teams of the college have made a mark in the inter-collegiate competitions. The various academic associations of the college have helped students to move beyond the narrow confines of the subjects to wider horizons. The foundation courses have proved to be a boon in personality development and increasing the self-esteem of students. No wonder, the results of the college in university examinations have been as good and at times even better than our own sister institutions.
In its 44 years of existence the college has contributed its mite in building a society of equality. Even today, most of the students of the college hail from marginalized communities. The admission process has always favoured students from discriminated communities without any reference to their grades or marks. The college has always held that grades of students are as a result of opportunities and if students without opportunities are provided with opportunities, they surpass. And every student who has enrolled here in spite of low marks very often has succeeded, thanks to the mentor system and the care of the institution. Through its preferential option for the poor policy, the college has been able to form a group of students who have been able to take their legitimate place in society as responsible and successful citizens.
Among the ranks of its Alumni, there have been bank managers, bureaucrats, politicians, religious personnel, community workers, chartered accountants, financial consultants, officers, editors and writers of newspapers and journals, teachers, professors, actors, service personnel, entrepreneurs and others with the seal of the college “faith and toil”. The distinguishing mark of all the alumni is their great loyalty to their alma mater. They remain ever grateful for the grooming with care they had received at the institution. It’s common to see many of them coming to visit their institution with a sense of gratitude. They attribute their success story with a philosophy of life to this institution.
No wonder the college has been acknowledged as a quality institution in the country. Accredited by National Assessment and Accreditation Council as the very first evening college in the country, it is the only autonomous evening college in the country. To cater to the needs of people the college has changed and is changing. In 2002, the college introduced a course in Journalism, Political Science and Sociology to the existing B.A. course in History, Economics and Political Science. In 2004, another section of B.Com was added. The BBM course began in 2008. In 2012, the college began a twinning programme in MBA with Pondicherry University. As the year 2013 begins, the management has decided to introduce a BCA (Bachelor of Computer Application) and a BSW (Bachelor of Social Work) course.