Indian Students Come to Colgate

Four representatives from the Eastern Theological College in Jorhat, India will be visiting campus on Thursday, September 24. The group will be working closely with Colgate students from the brand new class “Far From the Valley: Contributions of Colgate Alumni to Northeast India,” which is taught by Robert Ho Professor in Asian Studies and Professor of Philosophy and Religion and Director of Chapel House and the Fund for the Study of the Great Religions of the World John Carter.

Since its founding, Colgate has been affectionately referred to as “a citadel of learning in a cow pasture,” according to Professor Carter. Upon driving up to campus their first year, Colgate students can understand this epithet, but what they may not know is that though Colgate seems isolated from the rest of civilization, the University is actually deeply linked with the most unexpected of places, namely, Northeastern India.

Colgate’s relationship with India began in 1836 when Colgate students started going to Asia as missionaries. Through numerous missions thereafter, this religious relationship was upheld throughout most of the nineteenth century.

One of Colgate’s first students, Jonathan Wade, was a missionary in Asia for fifty years, returning to America only twice. One-hundred and twenty-five missionaries from Colgate followed in his footsteps and made the University well-known among the Northeastern Indian Baptists. Colgate is locally described as the “remarkable institution from Hamilton,” Carter said.

Robert Ho Professor in Asian Studies and Professor of Music, Emeritus Bill Skelton revived the trips to India in the 1970s when he took students to India to learn local classical dance. This year, the students enrolled in “Far From Thy Valley” will be going to India on December 30 to learn from their Indian hosts, present their papers at the Eastern Theological College and “explore the less-glamorous side of India, meaning the India that does not appear in Bollywood movies,” “Far From Thy Valley” student senior Sarajane McMahon said.

Originally, fifteen representatives were scheduled to come to Colgate this week as part of the exchange, but due to the fact that all of the students will have graduated the College by the time of their scheduled visit, eleven were denied their student visas.

A former principal, his wife, the College librarian and a female student, all from Nagaland, India, will still be making the trip to Colgate. The group, all members of the same choir, are scheduled to worship and sing at the First Baptist Church in Hamilton and talk to classes about where they live and their hopes for the future.

The group will be staying at the residence in Chapel House, which welcomes visitors from any and all religious denominations to visit, meditate and reflect.

“We [also] want to give them a taste of Colgate,” McMahon said, “so if you see them around campus, invite them to the soccer game, to a movie or out to dinner!”

“Far From Thy Valley” is a class twelve years in the making. In 1993, Carter began visiting the American Baptist Historical Society in Valley Forge, PA and found the letters of Colgate Alumnus P.H. Moore pleading for more resources to train Baptist ministers in India.

Not only was Moore a legendary missionary and founder of a Bible School in Assam, but he was also “a motivating force for the founding of The Eastern Theological College,” according to Carter.

Moore’s letters and other primary documents are the basis for the course that focuses on the work of Colgate alumni in Northeast India.

The course, named for the Chenango Valley in New York and the Bhrama Putra Valley in India, not only celebrates the contributions of Colgate alumni, but it is “a stitching of centuries, a stitching of cultures and leads to an awareness of the human being,” Professor Carter said.

Moreover, the nineteen Colgate students going to India this winter will be able to witness the “life-altering effects our alumni have had on the local communities,” said McMahon.

Author, Historian and Eastern Theological College Professor Frederick S. Downs will lecture at the Humanities Colloquium about the life of one of these alumni, who was also perhaps the most famous Baptist Missionaries, Miles Bronson.

During his time in India, Bronson founded an orphanage, was a vigorous supporter of education for women and helped translate the Bible into local languages that the Indians could understand. The lecture will take place at 4:30 p.m. on September 29 in Lawrence Hall.