Prof Dr S. Sathikh, Former Vice Chancellor Madras University

A well known effective and student friendly teacher, a successful researcher, an able educational administrator, an established institution builder, pragmatic Industrial consultant, a popular and eloquent speaker – both in Tamil and English, in Technical and general subjects, an interesting conversationalist, a humorist, yet a socially conscious humanitarian, a very versatile personality, who fits in to any society comfortably with no barrier of age, gender, culture or profession, Dr S.Sathikh, our alumnus of Annamalai University (1959 M).

It is 58 years since Dr Sathikh Has been associated with our Annamalai University and he has been a shining example of dedication to education. Education, he says is just not imparting information, data from the books but he defines it as the one which opens the minds and hearts of people. This interview is rather long but so is his association with our Alumni and is still continuing…..


Dr S. Sathikh (originally named as Sathakku till 1965) was born in 1934 in Burkitmanagaram, a village near Palayamkottai in Tirunelveli district. Sathikh is the second son and he had an elder sister and has one eldest and 2 younger brothers. His father was uneducated; yet self-learnt to read and write (beautifully, much sought to write accounts) a social worker was into dairy farming of his father and was also a general merchant in Colombo and used to come to his native place once in a year or so as other villagers. His mother could at the most sign; yet she was managing the affairs of all family properties in the village and astonishingly the irrigation problems of several other land owners. She was taking care of the emotional needs of the family and maintaining a congenial atmosphere for children. All the siblings studied in the village T D T A Elementary School up to 5th standard. The 5th std teacher Mrs Esther Gnaniah wished that her students pursue further studies, especially Sathikh. His father though away was also keen that all of Sathikh’s friends study further and sent 8 of them by two-bullock carts to school in Palayamkottai. Sathikh was admitted again in 5th standard in St. John’s middle school, for lack of adequate basics in English. He was influenced by his sister who was very studious and admitted in 6th std at Mary Sergeant Girls School; but stopped in late 6th std for want of custody to go to town, when their eldest brother stopped with 4th std. He also discontinued after half-yearly exam and went to Colombo. His uncle got a medical certificate and got him to 6th std, since his class teacher Isah David informed that he got 4th rank in half year exam. On return he resumed his studies. One by one when 6 students dropped, the remaining two were asked to drive the one-bull cart for two years in his 6th & 7th stds. Then he moved to St. John’s High school in Palayamkottai itself, all along learning in Tamil medium.

Young Sathikh was above average in academic subjects but good in Tamil and English languages, got 1st prize 8th std in both. He had an artistic and creative mind and would impress everyone with his ability to do sketching and paintings, which he says was encouraged in his village school itself and was handy in B.E. From the age of 11 until now at 78 years, he has been playing football; such is his passion for the game, rather addicted. After 11’th std (then school final), Sathikh joined in 1952 the 2-years intermediate class in St. John’s college in Palayamkottai in the Life Science stream; but discontinued and went to Colombo. His father convinced him to rejoin college in Mathematics stream. Thus he studied 2-years course in 3 years. Regarding his success in spite of his two time “so-called failure”, he says “A one time failure is not all time failure” and this could be taken as his major message to youngsters.

In spite of his scoring only 50% in maths he scored over 90% in physics and over 60% in chemistry, which helped him to join Annamalai University to do Engineering in the year 1955. Since he had no exposure to the world outside and had’nt been advised about dress codes he went and attended his first day in college clad in lungi !! He settled quickly started studying studiously and stood in the Top-3 of the class, with his class mates Panruti S. Ramachandran and (Kumbakonam)S. Swaminathan ahead of him. It was a 4 year course then and there were 14 – 15 subjects including practical in each year. 100 students passed out of the 1959 batch out of which 32 were civil, 20 mechanical, 8 electrical and, 40 Chemical engineers. He got married when he was in his first year and had a daughter when he was in the 3rd year. He played football for the university for all the 4 years ,was captainin the 3’rd year and also popularly elected games secretary in final year. Mr Sathikh got the overall First ranker award among all branches (Sir Archibald Nye Prize and Mrs Harvey Prize) and also “The best boy” prize of the whole University for “Academic and Social Attainments” in 1959. His academics and his all round abilities as a team player with good inter personal skills and good analytical skills made Prof VR Muthuveerappan initiate and Dean Lt. Col S Paul and Prof C Rajaram were pleased to recruit Sathikh as a Lecturer in Annamalai University. Between 1959-1963 Sathikh was teaching drawing, machine design, hydraulic machines besides taking care of IC engines lab and steam lab.

Mr Sathikh then joined The Indian Institute of Science in the year 1963 and did M.E in Machine design and passed out in distinction in August 1965. He then joined Annamalai University once again as a lecturer and got elevated soon as a “Reader” in January 2, 1966. He was then teaching Drawing for 3rd years, Machine Design and Operations Research for final years, and “Operations Research” & Vibration for P.G students. At that time the subject “Operations Research” was taught in U.G level only in Annamalai University among other Universities in TN. Since he was planning to go for PhD studies in 1968, he noticed two areas left untouched by others and hence he prepared Notes for Design and Drawing in MKS units when the FPS system got changed and Notes for O.R, which helped the students and teachers alike in both drawings and design and O.R. both present and future users. All was in cost price, working till early mornings. In 1968 Sathikh went to do his PhD in Solid Mechanics/Photo visco plasticity at Carleton University, Canada.

Sathikh completed his PhD in 1972 and though he had an immigrant status in Canada he chose to get back to his home land and chose to join Guindy engineering college as an Assistant professor in the production department though his assignment was in Engineering design department. He was quite student friendly since he had been both a student and a teacher, he exactly knew the mind of the student and was able to easily relate with all the students quite well thereby creating an excellent rapport with them. At that time he said he was also in charge of the Tamil Manram.

His research interest to day is in stress and vibration analysis and cable mechanics, twisted ropes and cables as applied to mechanical power transmission, structural cables, overhead electrical power transmission lines, control cables etc…

In 1974 Dr Sathikh joined MIT (Chromepet) as Professor of Engineering Sciences and worked up to 1976 when he was teaching Strength of materials, Fluid Mechanics and Drawing to Post-BSc students and Vibrations to Post-MSc students . It is here he was identified first as a competent industrial consultant by TAG Corporation at Chromepet; a total analysis of Over-Head Electrical Transmission Line Mechanics and design of Damper to reduce the line vibration amplitude was done in this challenging international competitive assignment. Till today he stays with them (Notice TAG CENTER at TTK Rd)

In 1976 he went back to Guindy Engineering College as a PG Professor in Production. Engineering and Head of faculty in Mechanical Engineering, teaching Vibrations to M. E. Engineering Design students and Metal Forming theory to M.E. Production Engineering students and a popular elective “Oil Hydraulic Drives and Controls” to combined B.E. Mechanical & B.E. Production Engineering students. He was also assigned a challenging task as Student Union Advisor then. In the year 1977 Dr Sathikh was sent to the University of Philippines as a Government of India nominee for 4 months where he underwent training in Low Cost Automation and Production Management. This exposure was very useful later in teaching the popular elective and in Industrial consultancy to leading companies like TVS, T.I, Ashok Leyland. Mr. M.V. Subbiah of TI Group was highly impressed by sathikh’s motivation of students to successfully carryout projects in T.I. Cycles, he put up to the Faculty of Anna University along with Vice Chancellor P Sivalingam for a meeting in the University to give cash awards to the students. This helped Sathikh later to easily get the post of Director at MIT .

In the year 1980 Dr Sathikh was selected as a Director and Dean of The Madras Institute of Technology (MIT) where he was concurrently Head of production Technology and Head of Automobile Engineering. Between the years 1980 and 1989 Dr Sathikh told that he was instrumental in revitalizing the MIT to its original glory and beyond. He persuaded a lot of Faculty to pursue research and qualify for Doctorate. During his tenure he modernized the laboratories, developed a Library equivalent to that of an University, built the first girl’s hostel and more boys hostels, Faculty residences, added buildings to departments, established Rubber Technology course, developed sports facilities, started part-time M.E course in Production Engineering. He brought social consciousness and inclusiveness in all spheres. This was a training ground for Dr Sathikh to become the Vice Chancellor of Madras University later. Between 1989 Aug and 1990 November Dr Sathikh was once again moved to the main campus in Guindy Engineering college where he was Dean of PG Studies in Engineering.

Eventually Dr Sathikh became the Vice Chancellor on the 26’th Nov 1990 and held office until 25’th Nov 1993. As a vice Chancellor his first task was to restore a calm and conducive atmosphere for effective and constructive academic and research pursuit. In spite of changing Governance, within his term of 3 years, 3 Governors, 2 Chief Ministers, 4 Education Ministers and 6 months of Governor’s rule, Dr Sathikh said, he was able to handle the affairs successfully. During his period as VC, he concentrated on consolidation and strengthening, revised UG curriculum for leadership and civil services, conducted convocations on time including the one that got missed out, improved the infrastructure in all the 3 campuses by utilizing the UGC funds left unutilized. This included Distance Education building, Library, hostel, auditorium and many other buildings. He also initiated steps for restoration of the prestigious heritage Senate House under the Leadership of Malcolm Adhiseshiah. He also brought in Financial discipline particularly in the distance education area, saved a lot of money in telephone, paper usage, advertisement, bank deposits (saving up to one crore a year), revamped the University Publication division and reprinted the English - Tamil dictionary. Granted limited autonomy to the UGC Academic Staff College that trained college teachers in service, which boosted the morale and the University of Madras ASC topped in the national ranking.

Between 1994 – 2000 Dr Sathikh was a Director in the B.S. Abdul Rahman Crescent Engineering college and there he was able to motivate and prepare the Faculty to a high level of academic and research standing. He personally participated in research pursuit and published significant papers and guided one PhD scholar.

From the year 2000 – 2013 until date Dr Sathikh heads the Governing Council of the M.A.M institutions in Trichy taking care of 3 Engineering colleges, a polytechnic, a school of architecture, a business school, a college of education and a college for nursing and 2 schools in a single campus.

Dr Sathikh lays a great emphasis on training, skill development and more importantly on character which is the spine on which all the all the other aspects rest. He also took keen interest to offer his personal touch and training all staff working with him in all positions, in all the posts/designations he had held - in day to day dealings for their benefit in improving the efficiency and effectiveness which improved the level of play and reflected in quick promotions and progress in life.

Dr Sathikh is a life member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Life member of the Indian Society of Mechanical Engineers (ISME) Life member of the Indian Society of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (ISTAM) Life member in the Indian Society for Technical Education (ISTE) and a life member in the Association of mathematical Teachers of India (AMTI). Dr Sathikh has served a few committees – as ex officio in UGC, All India council for Technical education, was a member in the TN sports academy, was UGC nominee in planning board of Osmania University, is Governor’s nominee in planning board and Faculty selection of Bharathidasan University He is currently a member of Committee on Ragging Issues in institutions, formed by The Supreme Court.

Dr Sathikh’s wife is a home maker, both his daughters are Doctors working in the ESI hospitals and his son is a professor in the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. With such importance given to education it is no wonder that 4 of Dr Sathikh’s grand children have completed professional degree in Engineering / Architecture and one pursuing law in London. One grand daughter studies in Arts in Singapore.

Dr Sathikh was instrumental in starting the Annamalai University Engineering and Technology Alumni Association - AUETAA in the year 1975 along with a few of our dedicated alumni, a few of them to be named are Mr P.N. Srinivasan (55 T), Mr C.H. Veera Reddy (56 C), Mr P. N. Arunachalam (56 T) Mr E.Vedagiri, (56 C) Maj J. Victor (56 M), S. Deenadayalan (56 E) Mr T. Sambasivam (56 E) Mr A.C. Kamaraj (56 M) Mr K. Ranganathan (57 T) Mr R. Natarajan (57 T) Mr S. Thangamuthu (61 E) Mr M. Rabindranath (63 T) Mr M.M. Ashroff (67 M) and many more.. Dr Sathikh has been office bearer of the AUETAA for 10 years, 2 years as President, 4 years as Secretary and 4 years as Treasurer and EC member for many years and continues to guide the alumni until date. Dr Sathikh is a patron member of the AUAC club and when we asked him of the secret of his good health, good memory, high energy levels he replied that a generous heart, good humour without hurting anybody, being upright, honest, sincere, being ever a student of life, and playing football until date has been the reason.

The choice of Dr Sathikh as his own pet son by Raja Sir Muthiah has been a great strength not only for his self promotion but also to the benefit of AUETAA. Raja offering a seat in his two- seater sofa was a surprise to many and a pleasure to AUETAA’ns to smoothly get going with the forming of the association.

Dr Sathikh contributes financial help for higher education to the tune of over Rs 2.5 lakhs a year. Recently he donated Rs 50 thousand to AUETAA TRUST for Endowment for scholarship to Mechanical students in Annamalai University.

At the end of the interview Anbalagan and I thanked Dr Sathikh for his valuable time, his attitude as a student of life, the number of hurdles he has overcome, the honesty, sincerity and integrity he has maintained while crossing so many obstacles, his helping tendency, his sense of humour, his creativity, his gentleness not amounting to laxity, his commitment to social responsibility, his contribution to education, his fitness at 79 et all would be a great inspiration for all of us to have a consistently directed, motivated and self effort with enormous passion on the Right path... we could all reach the top./