• Nasrimah R. Sampaco

The Mindanao State University: A Historical Glimpse

Dr. Datumanong A. Sarangani is an alumnus of MSU. He is a member of the initial batch of 282 students in 1962 and of the group of 63 constituting the first graduating class of MSU in 1966. Dr. Sarangani earlier served as Chancellor of MSU General Santos (1988-90) and MSU Marawi (1990-91),and retired as University Secretary/ Secretary to the Board of Regents on concurrent capacity as Executive Vice President (1990-2011).

This is the first building of the Mindanao State University, The Admission Building located at 1st Street (Photos provided by the University Library Facebook Page)

A Brief Glance

The Mindanao State University was officially was created by law by virtue of Republic Act 1387 (as amended). It is the first state university in the southern part of the Philippines, in Mindanao, and second to the University of the Philippines being the first and premiere state sponsored institution of higher education in the country. Through the collective efforts of some concern Moros initiated by Sen. Domocao Alonto, MSU was formally established on September 1, 1961 in Marawi City, the capital of Lanao del Sur, which was prominently claimed to be the heart of Morolandia owning to the city being the site of the reference point of all roads in Mindanao.

The university was formally established with the first meeting of its Board of regents in Marawi City on August 19, 1961, that resulted into the election of the first president of the University in the person of Dr. Antonio S. Isidro, the then vice President for academic Affairs of the University of the Philippines. Dr. Isidro took his oath of office as President of the University before President Carlos P. Garcia in Malacanang Palace, manila on September 1, 1961. This date is generally accepted as the Foundation day of the University. On November 18, 1962, Dr. Isidro was formally installed as President by then President Diosdado macapagal in his visit to the University in Marawi City together with some of members the Board of Visitors of the University that included Speaker Cornelio T. Villareal and Rep. Salipada K. Pendatun. Prince Karim Aga Khan IV was the special guest of honor at the University Visitation Day, and laid the cornerstone for the latter construction of the iconic Aga Khan Museum, one of the remaining yet most enduring historical landmarks of the University.

As mandated by law, the University was tasked to perform the traditional functions of an institution of higher learning: perform instruction, undertake research, and conduct community extension services. In Addition to the foregoing mandate, and as specified in its goals and objectives, the University was further tasked by congress of the Philippines to undertake a two-pronged national mission: first, to hasten the integration of the Muslim population into the national body politic; and second, to provide the technical manpower required for the economic and social development of the islands of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan.

The Pioneering Years (1962-68)

Earlier known as the University of Mindanao, the University started as a single campus university and formally started operations with the opening of classes on June 13, 1962 with an enrolment of 282 students. Majority of the students came from the different provinces of Mindanao, in Sulu and some in Luzon. Most of them were enjoying scholarships granted by the University, while others were supported by the National Science Development Board (NSDB), and the Commission of National Integration (CNI). Students were accommodated in dormitories with the minimum facilities and limited amnesties. They were quartered in rooms according to pre-planned “integrative” goals by geographical origins and ethnic affiliation. Simply put, no two persons coming from the same place can be roommates. These living arrangements were revised every year to allow desired integrative interaction results.

The teaching force were constituted by nine (9) regular faculty members mostly for the liberal arts and sciences, and three (3) American peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs), which eventually rose up to more than 200 in the mid-sixties. The teaching force was complimented by forty-six (46) personnel serving the support services in the dormitories, the cafeteria, the infirmary, the physical plant, the security force and general administration. Academic and administrative buildings, including the dormitories and faculty housing were mostly pre-fabricated, though handicapped by the early issues of electric lighting and water supply facilities.

In addition to the classrooms and the dormitories, a common cafeteria was made available to the campus constituency to provide another feature of an evolving common living experience: a hallmark of campus life in the pioneering years that eventually became a vital ingredient

in the development of a character that MSUans continue to be guided and inspired in the pursuit of their respective professions.

Since its inception up until the late 1960’s, the University continued to discharge its mandated tasks. Its first Commencement Exercises was held on April 26, 1966 for the first graduating class of 63 coming from the Colleges of Agriculture, business Administration, Community Development, Education, Fisheries and Liberal Arts. His Excellency, president Ferdinand E. Marcos was the Commencement Speaker.

By the mid-1960’s, the University started the expansion of its curricular program through the offering of additional degree courses. Starting with the first three colleges of Community Development, Education and Liberal Arts, the colleges of Agriculture, Business Administration, Engineering and Fisheries were later established. These additional units were designed to provide the manpower and technical training needed for the economic development of Mindanao, later to be known as Southern Philippines. The entry of foreign assistance to the University provided added impetus to the development and expansion of its institutional activities centered on science and engineering. The Ford foundation generously gave funding support and provided the services of Visiting Professors that complimented the similar services sponsored by the British Overseas Volunteers Program (BVSO), the Dutch and Japanese governments. This strengthened the academic programs of the University, while it reinforced the existing faculty services in some curricular offerings of other colleges.

In its declared thrusts to serve its mandate to serve the region, the University started its external expansion by working for the establishment of the Iligan Institute of Technology in 1968. This external unit was envisioned to provide training in science, technology and engineering as a response to develop the required manpower needs of existing local industries such as the National Steel Corporation and other firms dealing with the production of cement, fertilizer, chemical and other related products. In 1969, the university sought for the creation of the Sulu College and Technology and Oceanography to provide training in fisheries and marine science to bolster its vowed goals of increasing fisheries yields in the rich marine areas of the Sulu seas.

The pioneering years were the “trailblazing” days. There was much excitement and eagerness to some; doubts, apprehensions and even fears to others. The tenacious leadership of its founding president, Dr. Antonio Isidro, with the support of the Board of regents and other University officials paved the way of enlisting the support to the development of the University. As the decade was about to close, the university has firmly planted the seeds of an institutional vision to achieve progress and development in the region within an educational platform of “unity within diversity”.

The Period of Growth and Expansion

Under the leadership of its second president, Dr. Mauyag M. Tamano, the University pursued its plan for growth and development that was started in the Isidro period. New academic programs were introduced. The number of student scholarships and study grants was increased to cater to the financial needs of poor, but deserving students. The faculty development program received additional funding support and more faculty members were sent for further studies. Additional faculty members and administrative staff personnel were recruited in response to increasing student intake, developing campus facilities, and a growing campus community. Graduates of the university are now bringing honors to their Alma Mater on the account of their sterling performances in their respective professions as well in copping top ten finishes in government board examinations. Cultural activities and presentations by the Darangen Cultural Troupe and the Sining Kambayoka Ensemble reached further heights, in addition to performances of external entities being held in the campus on a periodic basis.

From 1970 to about 1975, but in 1972 when martial law was declared, student activism has reached alarming levels and this affected institutional development. Leadership instability, as well as peace and order concerns, has troubled the University, causing the leaving for good of some students and faculty members. These setbacks, however, were temporary. University activities were carefully restored to normal levels, although much of the glory of the 60’s was already a part of history.

After a brief switch of university leadership in 1974-75, then Gov. Mohammad Ali Dimaporo took over the helm of the University in 1976, first as Officer-in-Charge, and later as Acting President. In his ten years of overseeing the University, the expansion trend continued. Curricular programs emerged and or were improved, while faculty and staff development increased. External units of the University increased in number as well, bringing now the total of six (6) campuses. Iligan Institute of Technology, Sulu College of Technology and Oceanography, Dadiangas Community College, Sulu Development College, Dinaig Agricultural College, and the Institute of Fisheries Research Development in Naawan. MSU Marawi remained the mother campus.

In addition to sustained institutional growth in the academic sector, the leadership era of Gov. Dimaporo also witnessed a massive infrastructure development program. Academic and administrative buildings, dormitories, residential units were erected, complimented by a paved road network linking the different sector areas of the campus. This campus and institutional physical buildup also triggered the setting-up of a nearly complete sports complex, and this led the entrance of the University to national sports activities, having hosted the National UAAP games in 1983 and other regional sports competitions in a later period, The first half of the 1980’s might easily be referred to as the “halcyon” days for the University.

Towards a University System Set-up

The appointment of Dr.Ahmad E.Alonto.Jr, as the 3rd regular President of the University, after the EDSA People’s Power of February 1986, witnessed startling changes in the institutional character and buildup of the University. Through an act of the MSU Board of Regents, the University was re-organized from a single to multi-campus setup, the University now evolved into a university system. Under the arrangement, the external units of the University are now considered autonomous campuses, uniformly headed by a chancellor. Moreover, these campuses were now encouraged to embark on academic programs and other institutional activities that are deemed in congruence with the overall mission of the University, while these are also meant to address the differing needs of every campus towards further growth and continuing relevance.

From 1986 to 1992, the University continued to withstand the perils of growth due to dwindling government subsidy and a seemingly irretrievable foreign assistance program. However, the University still managed to hold on to its quest for academic excellence as shown in its programs, faculty activities, quality of graduates, and outputs in instruction, research, and extension activities. The ever changing directions of Philippine higher education saw the University spearheading massive efforts towards relevance and renewal under the lead efforts of the PASUC ( Philippines Association of State Universities and Colleges), with Dr. Alonto as president of the latter. Existing academic programs and other institutional mandates continued to be pursued with renewed vigor, despite meager resources.

Academic Excellence through Accreditation

As the mother campus, the MSU at Marawi holds aloft the noble desire of the University to maintain quality education through the quest for academic excellence. in addition to curricular innovations and continuing faculty development, the university submitted itself to the accreditation process with the ACCUP. Under the leadership of the 4th University President, Dr. Emily Marohombsar (1993-98), seeds of accreditation were planted and his complimented well the various institutional activities geared to captured relevance and practicality. Five (5) colleges of the University at Marawi have successfully gone through at least the first level of accreditation. Another two colleges were on deck, while other campuses of the university were preparing to submit for accreditation.

The latent impact of accreditation has spurred enthusiasm from the academic sector to continue with existing institutional efforts to accelerate growth and in pursuing academic excellence. Centers of Excellence and Development were achieved by the University and in other autonomous campuses .The administration as Acting President Diamel Lucman (1999), though very brief, saw vigorous support of these institutional objectives through institutional renewal, relevant personnel reorientation schemes, and necessary repairs of physical infrastructure and facilities.

Institutional Growth through Peace Development and Information Technology

The University seeks to hold on its steady course towards development, despite recurring problems on resources and instability. Under Dr. Camar A. Umpa, the 5th President of the University (1999-2005), the pursuit towards sustained institutional growth and progress, still under the loft goal of academic excellence, must consider issues impinging on organizational stability and continuity of work. Given the additional pressures of competitiveness in the global market, the university has embarked on a twin approach to organizational growth. These are the institutionalization of programs on peace development and information technology. This institutional outlook is anchored on the perspective that no development is feasible and possible where there is the lack or absence of peace and stability. In the same vein, attainment of peace may be possible utilizing a number of proven methods, but the role of information technology is very crucial as well. The acquisition and dissemination of information may now be passed on from the more traditional procedures of broadcast and print media to computer-assisted and Internet Web facilities. In considering these two-pronged options to institutional growth, the primordial goal of the University to maintain academic excellence in its institutional activities and mission is not at all a matter of wishful thinking succeeding university administrations sustained and improved on the foregoing institutional thrust, while exploring other avenues of continued growth and relevant growth directions.

(To be continued)

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