Dr. C.T. Abraham – His Life and Times
Cheppanalil Thomas Abraham was born in Pallipad in Alleppey Dist of Kerala on June 12, 1932. His father C.I. Thomas was a school teacher, who commanded great respect in the locality. He passed away when Dr. Abraham was barely eight years old. Thus it was his mother who brought him up. His mother Mariamma Thomas was a devout Christian lady of extraordinary talents and qualities. She brought up her young son and a daughter through a lot of struggles, inculcating in them love of God and discipline in all aspects of life.
Dr Abraham was a brilliant student throughout his academic life. He had his early schooling in his native village of Venmoney, and went to do his intermediate in St. Xavier’s College, Calcutta, where he stayed with one of his uncles. He came back to Kerala and did his BSc degree at SD College, Alleppey. He started his teaching career at the age of twenty, soon after his graduation, at the local High School. Later he went on to do his B. Ed at the NSS Training College, Pandalam. He stood first in his B. Ed exams in the entire Kerala University, which was the single university for the whole of Kerala those days. Thus he won the gold medal from the University.
Dr Abraham continued his teaching in the High School, at Kodukulanji, a small village next to his own native village. His wife Alice Abraham also joined as a teacher in the same school. A couple working in the same school was all that a family could dream of in those days. However, for Dr Abraham such commonplace calculations were not important. A man far ahead of his times, he could not be content with a teacher’s job in his own place. He was made for bigger things. Maybe this inner voice prompted him to look for a broader canvas to continue his career of teaching. He got admission to a master’s degree programme in education in the Nagpur University in 1962.
After obtaining his MEd he got an offer to teach in a training college in Marthandom, Tamil Nadu, and later on in Nedunganda, a town near Quilon, both under the then Madurai University. In 1967 he joined the Peet Memorial Training College, Mavelikara nearer his native place as a Lecturer. He continued teaching in this college for a few years. Again this man of indomitable courage and conviction geared himself up for greater things. He obtained an assistantship in the Maryland University in the USA to do his doctoral studies. He proceeded on leave from Peet Memorial, and pursued his studies when he was already nearly forty years, and had a family to support. Obviously his mother, wife and two daughters were always supportive of the adventurous streak in him. Else he could not have gone on this track.
In the US he had to fend for himself. He used to say how he had to work and study. 24 hours were not enough for him. He used to do part-time jobs to support himself. After three years of real hard work, he obtained his PhD in Science Education (Ed D in the US – which stands for Doctorate in Education) from the University of Maryland in 1972.
It was during his stay in the USA for his doctoral studies that he got involved in Church activities in a serious manner. Dr. Abraham used to be an active member of the church and speaker at meetings. He was always in great demand as a speaker in public meetings, seminars and conferences – both academic and church-related.
Though he achieved his life-time ambition of gaining a doctorate, somehow he was not content with it either. There was his restless soul, perhaps, yearning for something beyond the terrestrial, something supernatural, and something spiritual. Finally the call became clear. He decided to go back to USA and pursue a master’s degree in theology. He joined the Liberty University and completed his master’s in Christian Education in 1976.
He returned to India, and started teaching in the Peet Memorial College, Mavelikara. All this while he was seriously planning to start an organization. Eventually he founded the India Suvartha Samithi (Good News Organization India) around the same time. He founded a Bible College where students could work, earn and study too. This arrangement went on for a few years.
Meanwhile Dr Abraham’s decision to float a Baptist Church in the native place was much resented by the mainline churches and church members. One who hails from an ancient Syrian Christian family with a hoary tradition, and a lot of respectability was moving away from the mainstream church and was founding a Baptist church. This was not taken kindly by his own relatives and friends. Though all of them acknowledged the extraordinary abilities of this man, they could not easily accept his new-found love of the Baptist Church – with its belief in adult baptism – the main contention between the mainstream Episcopal churches and Dr Abraham’s inner convictions.
To cut the long story short, Dr Abraham was somewhat disillusioned by the local animosity to his well-meaning efforts to provide both religious and secular education to the young people of the area. Though many people lent him support personally, it was not easy for people to identify themselves with a deserter of the traditional church.
Dr and Mrs Abraham decided to pay a visit to their daughter and son-in-law who were in Brahmavar already at this time. In 1981 to be exact, they came to Brahmavar. I was then the Principal of SMS College in Brahmavar. Dr Abraham told me how he wouldn’t mind shifting his work to this place, if we got some land. Luckily for us we bumped into the right man – Ashok Bhat of Chanthar. We got this land, which is around 30 acres owned by his brothers who were living in Hubli then. When he was thinking about starting some projects here under the aegis of Priority One India, I suggested that we start an English Medium School, affiliated to CBSE, because I felt that an English Medium School was the need of the time. So in the year 1982 Dr Abraham started the Little Rock Indian School.
Soon thereafter in 1984 the Crossland College, affiliated to the Mangalore University, was founded by Dr Abraham. The Pre-university College followed in 1987.
The India Theological Seminary was established around the same time. The Heidi Home, a home for the orphaned and poor children was also started eventually.
In 1991 the Liberty University, Virginia conferred upon Dr Abraham an honorary doctorate for his record of service in India. Many organizations have honoured him for his service in the field of education, but he never hankered after recognition or awards or any such thing. For him true recognition, he believed, would come only from heaven.
The Little Rock Indian School obviously is the most visible creation of Dr. C. T. Abraham, the flag-ship of the Priority Highlands, and of the whole of Brahmavar. Brahmavar today is best known as the cradle of Little Rock. What started as a small school 35 years ago has become a great name today in the annals of modern school education. It has emerged as a virtual synonym for excellence in schooling, known far and wide.
The credit for the extraordinary achievements of Little Rock should go primarily to the vision and professionalism of Dr. C.T. Abraham. He has never been worried about the finances of the School. We used to have serious financial problems. He used to say with great confidence that we would manage somehow. His courage of conviction in doing what has to be done, in spite of difficulties, persevering with the struggle, was the single most important factor that made Little Rock what it is today – a School with a difference. He never wilted even when faced with daunting problems or difficulties. I think he never cared, because he always believed that the Lord would take care of everything.
We never had money before we launched any project. We had the required enthusiasm and passion. Money followed. Even today the story is no different. To the outside world perhaps Little Rock looks like a rich institution with lots of money in its treasury, but the fact is that this institution still thrives on hope, noble objectives, and great ideals. Money is the servant of the cause that keeps us going. This is the great lesson our Founder taught us. He never bowed before money. He never worried about or cared for money. He valued ideas, he respected and trusted people, and he always encouraged them. He left them to do their job, giving them a nudge or two, a pep talk now and then, but never ever threw cold water on their ideas or initiatives. He was a builder of people.
A man of creative ideas, of fertile imagination, stupendous energy and inexhaustible passion for service, humble and unselfish to the core, here was a man of God, who did nothing for himself, but everything for others, and found great joy in doing so… we can only exclaim as Antony did when speaking of Brutus –
‘His life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, ‘This was a man!’
Such men tread on this earth only rarely. One such is Dr. C.T. Abraham.