Purdue and India, Part 1: The First Indian Students at Purdue

Editors Note: The materials in this post are presented as they were originally created. In some cases, outdated terms and phrases were used that may be offensive today, but they are presented here unedited so that the context of the difficulties faced by international students may be understood.  Please click on images for better view.

In Recognition of the World at Purdue’s Doorstep 1887 – 1955

Students have traveled from India to study at Purdue since the early 1900s. In this post, we highlight those early Purdue students from India.

A university publication titled “In Recognition of the World at Purdue’s Doorstep 1887 – 1955” identifies two students who were likely the first to come from India to study at Purdue. Those men were Amar Nath Bery of Kashmir and Ram Lal Bery of Lahore.

Ram Lal Bery, 1905 Debris

Ram Lal Bery (BSME, 1905) appeared as a senior in the Purdue yearbook, The Debris. After graduation, he returned to Indiana and became Principal of the Hindu Diamond Technical Institute.

Amar Nath Bery (BSEE, 1905) graduated the same year as Ram Lal Bery but does not appear in the Debris. He later became Secretary of the Public Works Department, Jammu and Kashmir. 

 

1905 Debris

The Debris yearbook includes other students from India in subsequent years. The next student from India was Albert Norton. As noted in the necrology, Norton passed away on October 6, 1906.  H.D. Wohra  (Class of 1913) appears in the Debris as a member of the Cosmopolitan Club/Corda Fratres, but he is not pictured with the other seniors in the 1913 yearbook.

Birendra Nath Das Gupta, 1914 Debris

Narendra Nath Sen, 1914 Debris

The next student from India known to graduate from Purdue was Birendra Nath Das Gupta (BSEE, 1914). As stated below his photo, Das Gupta came from India in October 1911, and he spent his first year at Wisconsin. He then came to Purdue and was able to complete his studies in three years.

Also among the Class of 1914 was Narendra Nath Sen.  Like Gupta, Sen first spent a year at the University of Wisconsin before transferring to Purdue. He planned to continue his education with advanced degrees in engineering after earning his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering.

Purdue Exponent, September 24, 1921

1922 Debris, p. 385

The 1920s saw another group of students coming to Purdue from India. Per an Exponent article from 1921, six students from India made their way to Purdue and faced unique challenges. Those students also formed the Purdue Hindusthan Association, a local chapter of a national organization to support students from India as they represent their culture in America.

Three of the men featured in the Exponent article appear in the Debris:

 

 

Kameshwar Nath Kathju, 1922 Debris

 

Kameshwar Nath Kathju (BS, 1922) of Bikaner, who was a Fellow of the Royal Colonial Institute of London

 

 

Syed Habibuddin Ahmed, 1923 Debris

1923 Debris

 

Syed Habibuddin Ahmed (BSEE, 1923) of Burhanpur

 

 

Gyan Chand Sharma, 1924 Debris

1924 Debris

 

Gyan Chand Sharma (BSEE, 1924) of Lahore, who played a key role in organizing the Foreign Students’ Union, a club that provided support for other international students.

Purdue Exponent, October 4, 1923

Many of the students gave presentations on campus, supported other international students, and provided insight into what it meant to travel across the globe to study at a university far from home.

Per statistics gathered for 1941-1942, there were no students from India at Purdue, but by 1946 the Lafayette Journal and Courier reported that there were ten students from India at Purdue that year.

MSP 152, Box 2, Folder 3, Purdue University International Students collection

As the years went by, outreach efforts resulted in increases to the number of International students attending Purdue. As International alumni spread the word about the value of their Purdue educations, the number of international students continued to rise.

A letter home to students in India

Purdue at India, Call # LD4767.2 .I523

In 1963, students published the “India at Purdue” newsletter. This short-lived publication focused on news and events in India for those who were far from home. The quotation on the cover states “In diversity we strive for unity.”

By 1963 there were 120 students from India enrolled at Purdue and that number has continued to grow ever since. Today, more than 2,000 students from India attend Purdue and Purdue Indian students are integral contributors to celebrations of diversity and multiculturalism on campus.

Our next post, Purdue and India, Part 2, focuses on Purdue’s collaborative efforts to establish the Indian Institute of Technology.

 

 

Blog post by Mary A. Sego (’82), Processing Assistant, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections.

References

MSP 152, Purdue University International Students collection, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries

Purdue University. Senior Class. (1889). Debris.

Purdue University. (1961). Alumni directory, 1875-1961, Purdue University. Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue Alumni Association.

Purdue University. India Students Association. (n.d.). India at Purdue.

Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur records, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections

Vertical File, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries

3 thoughts on “Purdue and India, Part 1: The First Indian Students at Purdue

  1. DEBAJYOTI CHATTERJI

    I am delighted to run into this article (through a posting by SAADA on Facebook). I was a PhD student at Purdue from 1967 to 1971 when the population of Indian students was almost 200 but I had always wondered about the history of students at Purdue who had come before me. Glad to see that the Purdue archives are being utilized to put together articles like this.

    Debajyoti(Deb) Chatterji, PhD, 1971

    Reply
  2. Gayatry Jacob-Mosier

    Loved this article. My father received his master in engineering from Purdue in the late 40s/early 50s. Years later I was told that he was considered a pioneer by his peers because he was the first one in his circle to leave India and go to the US to further his education. This article confirms what I was told.

    Reply
  3. msego Post author

    Thanks for sharing Gayatry! Your father sounds like an amazing man & Purdue alum!

    Best,
    Mary Sego

    Reply

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