In December 1948, when the founding Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University CR Reddy presented the Sir Cattamanchi Ramalinga Reddy National Prize to Sri Aurobindo at his ashram in Pondicherry, in a letter, Sri Aurobindo noted: “Your university can take its high position as a centre of light and learning.”
And that appear to have driven Prof. C.R. Reddy to lay a strong foundation for AU. The 91-year-old úniversity, the oldest in the State after bifurcation, will be celebrating the founder’s day on December 10, by organising a mega alumni meet, which will be attended by Industrialist Ratan Tata and likely by Vice- President M. Venkaiah Naidu and Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu.
People who were associated with the university recall fondly how the foundation was laid brick-by-brick by Prof. C.R. Reddy and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan who succeeded him.
The demand for a separate university for the Andhra was first voiced by Congressman Bhogaraju Pattabhi Sitaramayya in 1914 and it was given a shape by Prof. C.R. Reddy on August 30, 1926, when it was established in Bezawada (Vijayawada), said former Rector Prof. A. Prasanna Kumar.
Some senior professors say the name Telugu university was proposed , but ithe idea was shot down by Prof. Reddy as he felt Andhra University would encompass all elements of Andhra pride.
But Prof. Reddy was not happy with the climate of Bezawada and he moved the university to Waltair (Visakhapatnam) in September 1930, and it started to function from its present campus. Rabindranath Tagore, who visited the campus in 1933, was so enamoured by the beauty and serenity of the campus that he returned again in 1934 to pen a couple of poems.
Many scholars and eminent persons such as Prof. N.K. Siddhanta, PV Rajamannar, Vikram Sarabhai, Indira Gandhi and Sunil Gavaskar who visited the campus, showered praise on it.
Three things started by Prof. C.R. Reddy that stood out and brought fame to the university were the convocation, Andhra Week, which was then the most colourful university fest in vogue at that time; and mock parliament.
After Prof. Reddy stepped down in 1930, the mantle was taken over by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, and it was during his time that the university grew academically and in size.
Describing Radhakrishnan’s tenure, Nobel laureate C.V. Raman had said, “He waved a hand and a university has sprung up,” recounted Prof. Prasanna Kumar.
From about 80 students, two honours courses and six teaching staff in 1931, the university today has over 15,000 students, about 2,000 research scholars, around 80 courses and close to 500 teaching staff and over 2,000 non-teaching staff.
From about 7000 volumes in the library in 1928, it today houses over 5 lakh volumes. “We are poised to grow further with major tie-ups with the Defence and Department of Science and Technology,”said present Vice-Chancellor of AU Prof. G. Nageswara Rao.