Yale University’s Madras (Chennai) connection

Tamil studies were introduced in one of America’s oldest – and leading – universities, Yale in Connecticut some time during 2004. And it was in Madras that Yale made his fortune, a small bit of which went towards having the university named after him. In about 1670 Elihu Yale, came to Madras with the East India Company as a ‘writer’ at 10 Pound Sterling a year. By the time he returned, twenty seven years later, he had amassed a fortune. In 1718 Rev. Cotton Mather of Boston wrote to him promoting the needs of Connecticut College, New Haven and suggested that a financial contribution might result in a change of the name to Yale College. Elihu’s bequest to the college was worth 1,162 Pound Sterling , the largest donation made to the college in its first 122 years. Yale’s gifts amounted to textiles from Madras that fetched 562 Pounds Sterling on sale and 449 books – many still in the Yale library – and a painting of George I which together were valued at about £600.

If Yale made his fortune out of Madras, with or without a knowledge of Tamil, he also contributed much to Madras and India. It was he who raised the first Indian militia, organised the first hospital, and brought about some kind of municipal governance before the Company imposed the first municipal corporation outside Europe on him to curb his powers.

Elihu Yale remained in India for seven years after resigning office, and having amassed an enormous fortune left India for England in 1699. Shortly afterwards he was made Governor of the British Colony of New York. His name is commemorated in America, the land of his birth, by the University of Yale, which he largely endowed.

His tombstone runs as follows:

“Elihu Yale was buried 22nd July 1721.
Born in America, in Europe bred,
In Africa travelled, in Asia wed,
Where long he lived and thrived–in London dead.
Much good, some ill, he did, so hope’s all even,
And that his soul through mercie’s gone to heaven.”

Yale University’s connection with Chennai (Madras) continues in the form of a collaboration with Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai

(with inputs from Mr Muthiah’s articles in “The Hindu” web edition, www.yale.edu &www.anglicanhistory.org)

Comments are closed.

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.