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Charisma of Founder of Forman Christian College Lahore. By Mohammad Akmal Pasha

This is just a rarity if men of God are stuffed with such volition that imbues a prophetic spirit in them such that they dare to altruistically serve humanity; in the alien lands, away from their nativity, aloof of their kith and kin. Still only a handful out of them marvel in institutionalizing enthusiasm, pragmatism and integrity on enduring basis, though at the expense of their leisure, pride or reward. The US-born Dr. Charles William Forman, the founder of Forman Christian College, Lahore is such a great godly prophetic soul, a minaret; that each individual needs to salute him if can’t help itself emulate him.

In a truly numerological sense an expansive Pisces; Charles William Forman was born in a prosperous family in Kentucky, USA on March 3, 1821. His parents, Ezekiel and Dolly (Wood) Forman were thoroughly enterprising and were professionally engaged in the business of hemp manufacturing; however they had no religion as such. In 1844, Forman graduated from Centre College where his religious conversion rather adoption took place. So he made a public profession of his faith in the Presbyterian Church of Washington and started receiving missionary training at Princeton Seminary. On his route to graduate to a proper missionary, he received an invitation from an American Presbyterian missionary John Newton (who was later on considered one of the fathers of the modern Punjabi language). John Newton was already on a Mission to India since 1836. So on August 11, 1847, Forman set off from Philadelphia by a British ship Coromandel and arrived in Calcutta in January 1848 and joined Newton in Ludhiana. Soon after, at the behest of a Lahore-based Christian surgeon Dr. Baddely, Forman agreed to open up a mission at Lahore. And this was the juncture when Forman founded the historic Rang Mahal Mission School in the Walled City, Lahore (now Forman Christian College University). The Rang Mahal (color palace) was then owned by Saeed Ullah Khan, a grand minister of Moghal Emperor Shah Jahan, so mission purchased the place from him.

The year 1864 proved phenomenal for Forman; both in terms of his academic growth, and also in terms of elevating the status of the school. This year he not only received a PhD from Knox College, but also added a ‘college department’ to the school. The college in a couple of years was able to open up proper departments to teach languages like Greek, Latin and Hebrew (1895–96). In a gush, Forman established an Alumni Association in the same year. The start of the twentieth century marked the production of first pair of science graduates, both from FC College. At the same time, Forman also introduced the system of co-education in 1902. Once geared up, the spurting wave never slowed down. The college ventured to pioneer the introduction of science departments like Department of Biology (1898), Experimental Psychology Laboratory with a tutorial system (1908), Industrial Chemistry (1917), and Geography (1924) in sub-continent.

Outside the college, the socio-political realm never lagged behind in recognizing Forman’s stature, servitude and sacrifice. Forman was officiated at state level as the member of the Punjab Text and Book Committee and the Punjab Educational Conference. He was also chosen to serve as a member of the Senate of the Punjab University College (1870) and Punjab University (1882) which he remained till his death; and finally during his lifetime he was distinguished as the “Most Experienced Teacher in Punjab.” In fact, Forman was a sublimely dynamic person, so he not only learned some of continental languages, but also furnished intellectual contributions, besides running his family matters that too in far-apart regions (two wives and ten children, five sons became missionaries later on in Pakistan). For example, he was versatile in several languages including Arabic, Sanskrit, Persian, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu. For the languages like Persian, Punjabi and Urdu, Forman availed of the expertise of renowned connoisseur Maulvi Noor Ahmad Chishti, an eminent historian, who used to charge a hefty amount at that time (Rs. 20 per month as tuition fee) and devoted one hour daily to each student. At intellectual front, Forman’s love for Sanskrit is evident from his Hindi works, and for Quran in Arabic works. Surprisingly, along with authoring a couple of books in English, his accomplishments in Urdu language are abundant. To cite a few, Rah-i-Salamat or The Path of Peace, 1868, Ummaid-i-Jannat or Hope of Heaven, 1868, Kashif-i-Jurm-i-Adam or The Fall of Adam, 1870, Ahwal-i-Masih or Events of Christ’s life, 1874, Risal-i-Wafat-i-Masih or The Death of Christ, 1875, Risala-i-Tahrif or Reply to Charges that Bible was reworded, 1876, and distinctively Tariq-i-Tahqiq or The Methods of Research, 1877 are self-evident.

To date, dozens of Formanites have marveled in almost all domains of life; be it in India or Pakistan. Among notable Formanites alumni who belong to Armed Forces include Noel Israel Khokhar, General Officer Commanding 23rd Division and Major General of Pakistan Army, and former Army Chief, Pervez Musharraf. Among major politicians include Yousaf Raza Gillani, the 16th Prime Minister of Pakistan, Inder Kumar Gujral, the 12th Prime Minister of India, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, former Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Farooq Leghari, former President of Pakistan. From judiciary are Justice Wajihuddin Ahmed, Former Supreme Court Judge, and Justice (retired) Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, Former Chief Justice of Pakistan. Among industrialists include Chaudry Ahmed Saeed, CEO of Servis Industries, Lord Swaraj Paul, founder and CEO of Caparo Group and Sir Mohammad Pervaiz Anwer, Co-founder & Chairman, United Bank Limited. From literature Formanites include Anwar Kamal Pasha, pioneer Pakistani film director and producer, Krishan Chander, short story writer, and Yawar Hayat Khan, senior producer/director of PTV. Another Formanite Justice Sir Mian Abdur Rashid became the first Chief Justice of Pakistan, and had the blessing of taking oath of the Office to Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah as the first Governor General.

Today the FCCU is ranked among top ten in Pakistan as medium sized universities and is the singular institute in Asia with a membership of the Global Liberal Arts Alliance (GLAA- USA). Only 29 colleges hold such membership and just in 19 countries of the world. By dint of its superb performance as a college, it was awarded a charter as a University in 2004 to be called Forman Christian College University (FCCU). Since then it has been innovative in all spheres of education at FCCU. So uniquely it has introduced Baccalaureate honors program to provide the undergraduates with both depth and breadth of knowledge, helping them tighten their laces for 21st century challenges. Thus students currently have a choice of 22 majors at the Baccalaureate (BA/BS Hons) level; four of these are professional degrees: Business, Biotechnology, Bioinformatics and Computing. Moreover, by virtue of the conduit of major, by-major, major-minor-mix, the range of subject combinations has got a manifold tinge. Further, MBA, EMBA, M. Phil in Applied Economics, Executive MA in Public Policy, and both M. Phil and PhD in Biotechnology, Chemistry and Physics mark the subsequent phase of expansion. The evening educational programs are yet a treat apart.

Out of total almost 25,000 alumni, nearly 7,000 are currently its students; there are 225 full-time faculty members, and more than 100 PhDs. Contrary to what its name suggests; Christians are just 15% of the student body while the college maintains a $1 million fund in the form of students’ scholarships. No less than seven on-campus and one off-campus hostels are home to over 700 male and female students flooding from remote parts of the country. Recently, FCCU has signed MoU with the University of Kentucky (USA) through which cooperation will be developed in areas like joint research activities, exchange of academic materials and academic publications, and exchange of faculty and students.

Finally, Forman died on August 27, 1894 in Lahore. A world of acquaintances comprising of his students, comrades and public figures swarmed in for the funeral. During his life, he was rather worshipped and in slang words was enchanted by boys as ‘Baba Forman’ (father Forman) wherever he went. As a token of their gratitude to Forman, the group of non-Christian leading men joined to erect a memorial for him. The mission also changed the college’s name from Lahore Mission College to Forman Christian College the same year Forman died. Forman’s body was buried in the Taxali Gora Graveyard (Lahore), which is probably the oldest Christian graveyard in the city. The FCCU’s perennially universal motto, ‘by love, serve one another’, has actually been abstracted from Bible (Galatians 5:13), ‘for you, brothers, were called to freedom; but do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. Rather, serve one another in love’ has been proving true both in letter and spirit.

(Author is freelance writer and PhD scholar : akmalp@yahoo.com)