Thursday, January 17, 2008

AdU @ 75

AdU @ 75: Passage and Transition
Raul Agner

Forbidding and ugly, the massive wall in front of the SV building has been finally demolished, replaced with a grill fence that allows for appreciation of the SV building fa├žade's full neoclassical glory. The inspiring view should awaken a sense of pride in every Adamsonian who takes his Alma Mater seriously.
To the unfamiliar, its fresh coat of paint makes the structure look so new and recently built it seems to belie a storied past. Its colonial period architecture helps to correct this wrong impression and establishes the SV building's true historical age. But it's not only the building that can boast of a history, for the whole university itself can.
At 75, Adamson University is one humongous storybook about passage, transition, and transformation. Over time, it has changed location, physical facilities, administration, institutional vision, and educational orientation. In the process, it has reinvented itself; more importantly, it has transformed lives and hopes to do so for as long as it lives.

An Itinerant School
1932 is the year of the one-room beginning in Sta. Cruz, Manila - captured in an extant sepia picture with all of 42 pioneering enrollees and the Adamsons packed together with a handful of chem lab equipment. Very seminal, a world removed from the numerous air-conditioned rooms and spacious labs available to the modern-day Adamsonian.
A month past its first founding anniversary, it moved to a better location in 1933, the first in a series of three nomadic transfers. Along General Solano St., San Miguel, Manila stood the baroque three-story building where students enjoyed more elbowroom for doing experiments and schoolwork. The place, though, couldn’t be big enough just yet. In 1939, a larger building in Intramuros became the school's third stop, where it attained university status in 1941. The new university found a permanent home along San Marcelino Street in 1946, re-opening in the SV building after a war that left a wake of destruction. From thereon, AdU was on a roll, crossing San Marcelino to acquire the Meralco building and its annexes and the whole St. Theresa's College - Manila campus.

Physical Facilities
Several buildings stand in the campus, with the iconic SV getting stellar billing. But while other schools erected buildings cumulatively on a sprawling field, Adamson did not. Except for the Ozanam (Engineering) and Francis Regis Clet (High School and Elementary), the rest are hand-me-downs - having had previous owners and uses but reused for educational purposes. The long one-story structure, old chem lab to many, that is now used for classrooms, offices, carpentry shop, university store and computer labs was the tranvia's pre-war Manila depot, the street railway system operated by Meralco. In the 60's, Meralco put up a main office building in front of it. That is now the CS or Cardinal Santos building. What also used to be a seminary and central house of the Congregation of the Mission (C.M.) is now the SV building. Except for some minor makeover, the STC-M cluster was the easiest to reuse because it was previously also a school.

From the Greeks to the Spaniards to the Filipinos - the ownership-administration succession follows that order. George Lucas Adamson, a chemist from Athens was the sole founder, some sort of reverse OCW who found the proverbial greener pastures in our land. He later invited his cousins, the brothers Alexander Athos Adamson and George Athos Adamson, to work in the school. Had the Filipinos heeded that line from the classics about fearing the Greeks even if they're bearing gifts, Adamson University wouldn’t be around today. When the C.M. assumed ownership, the Spanish Vincentians became the next set of administrators, with some Filipino confreres as understudy. Expectedly, the institution shifted from being a secular to a Catholic-Vincentian one. Upon the Spanish Vincentians' gradual return to Spain, the Filipinos became the new administrators.

Institutional Vision
To teach Filipinos how to make soap, salt, sugar and other products through a short training in industrial chemistry and to help the country manufacture local raw materials-based products was the goal of the Adamsons when they opened a school. Later they would have the broader vision of offering especially engineering and a mainly technical college education.
That of the Vincentians didn’t come from any hip advocacy but was anchored on their motto: the evangelization of the poor. To offer affordable quality education especially to the socially disadvantaged was the school's new vision, a war cry if you will, because providing education is a way of waging war on poverty. Consequently, Adamson continued to be one of the least expensive schools, made available many scholarships and strengthened the study grant program for student assistants.
At close range, one notices the parallelism of the Greek and Vincentian visions. Both looked upon education as key to attaining a better quality of life.

Educational Orientation
More recently, the administration has redirected the purely technical orientation of the students, veering to a more holistic one. Total development of the human person through a comprehensive cultural program is being pursued. Among the giant steps in this direction are: the establishment of the Cultural Affairs Office, the makeover of the theater, the opening of an art gallery, the recognition of several culturally-oriented student organizations, the opening of the university archives, the opening of the school's permanent history and memorabilia exhibit, the purchase of new books on literature and the arts, the installation of three plasma TVs in strategic areas playing videos on school history and activities, the much-improved library, the facelifting of facilities for a more aesthetic ambience - with a fountain and palm trees, the ST Quad looks more relaxing - and many other enriching servings.

Transformed Lives
That a tree is known by its fruits may sound jaded but the success stories of many alumni reflect the kind of tree that Adamson University is. It is one enduring institution that is faithful to its vision and mission and transforms lives by doing so. From schooldays struggles to rewarding careers, from being nameless to being known, from meager resources to abundant blessings - alumni homecomings are punctuated by falcon-like soars like these. Not only that, they walk the Adamsonian-Vincentian talk, extending their success beyond their personal boundaries. They support scholarships, sponsor school improvement projects, employ Adamsonians in their companies, involve themselves in their communities, serve in their parishes and help empower the poor. In short, they continue the cycle of sharing the benefits of their success, albeit in a low profile manner, hewing to the pay-it-forward ethic of their Adamson education.

Cuing The Future
February 5-11, 2007 was the weeklong celebration of the Diamond Jubilee. Within that week, many significant activities and events took place. A marker from the National Historical Institute declaring the whole university a historical site was unveiled. With its colorful past, there's no doubt that the university deserves the honor. It's another feather on its cap but one more reason for it not to rest on its laurels.
And so, as the new Jubilee sculpture (unveiled in the same week) cues, the transgenerational passage of the school will continue. St. Vincent de Paul, C.M. founder and university Patron Saint and George Lucas Adamson, school founder, are shown in the mis-en-scene as giving a young man and a little girl that precious legacy called an Adamsonian-Vincentian education. Two streams becoming one river on which young people sail to fulfil their dreams.
As history would have it, the one-room experiment became a full-blown project. Today it is an exciting work in progress, holding a lot of promise for the future.

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