The Mindanao State University: A Historical Glimpse

by Dr. Datumanong A. Sarangani, Past MSU EVP (1990-2011), now Senior Professional Lecturer, College of Public Affairs, MSU, (Member, MSU Students Pioneer Batch 1962, Member, First Graduating Class of 1996, First Alumni Batch).

A Brief Glance

The Mindanao State University was officially 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. The 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 by 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 midsixties. 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 1st 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”.