To Sir, with Love


Rev. Father Rudolf Robert Schoch SJ needs no introduction. Thousands of his students all across the world would be pleased to note that his 100th Birth Anniversary was on 27th Sept. 2013.

Fr. Schoch – the educationist par excellence – was an outstanding teacher, basically because he was a great, kind and benevolent human being. He had this rare quality of love for humanity and the inclination to do good for others.

Rev. Father 
Born in Basel, Switzerland on September 27, 1913, he completed his schooling at St. Gaulle and Stella Matutina in Feldkirch (Austria). After his graduation from St Ballen–Perugia, he entered the Society of Jesus at Tisis (Feldkirch) in 1932, when he was not yet 19 years. He studied philosophy for six years at Berchmans Kolleg, Germany and came to India in 1938. In India he continued his studies, learning Marathi and Sanskrit for a year. He studied theology in Pune from 1942 for three years.

During the Second World War, the German Priests were sent to concentration camps and the Swiss Jesuits had to take their places. He was ordained a priest on 20th March, 1945. From 1946-48, he taught at a school at Dehu Road, Pune. In 1948, he became Principal of Dnyanamata Vidyalaya at Sangamner, Ahmednagar district – the first Marathi secondary school – a post he held for four years. He was already speaking fluent Marathi and he was granted citizenship.

Between 1957 and 1966, he was Principal of St. Vincent’s High School. He was instrumental in wide-ranging reforms, including construction of new buildings with large labs and audio-visual facilities and increasing the number of playgrounds.

In one of his rare interviews, Fr. Schoch said that after Independence, the Poona Mission had felt the need to establish a new school in Poona, as St. Vincent’s was the only large English Medium School of the Society of Jesus. Once at a tea party at the Governor’s place, he met Dr. Venkataraman, the then Director of National Chemical Laboratory (N.C.L.), who suggested that he consider some land near N.C.L. as a site for the school. Fr. Schoch finally selected the site. The Architect-in-charge was an old student of Fr. Schoch. Some people were generous with donations. What Fr. Schoch really appreciated were the small donations like Rs. 10/-, Rs. 50/-, etc which were really precious ones He received foreign aid too, from the Swiss and German Governments. In 1952, Fr. Schoch had helped the Germans to start courses in Poona University and in founding of the Max Mueller Bhavan; they reciprocated by helping Loyola.

Fr. Schoch was Principal of Loyola from 1966 to 1973. He was then again Principal of St. Vincent’s High School from 1973 for six years. He drew out the best from both his staff and students. He exercised authority as Principal, at the same time supporting his staff and entrusting responsibility. He would strive to solve the teachers’ and students’ difficult class and domestic problems, visiting them in their homes and strengthening his rapport with them. The secret of his success as an administrator was partly due to his toiling at nights studying the boys’ reports in different standards, finding out ways to improve their performance.

He would read the rules and regulations of the Maharashtra SSC Board and the Education Department with a keen critical eye and would advise the several school administrators who sought his advice. Both Pune University and the Maharashtra School Board recognized his expertise and he was Member of the Senate of the University and a Member of the Academic Council of the Maharashtra School Board for 14 years. He was also Vice President of and Secretary to the Poona Schools Athletics Association for 12 years and an honorary Rotarian for 14 years.

Fr. Schoch is well remembered for teaching German and Civics. He was also a writer. His much acclaimed book ‘Civics and Indian Administration’ was prescribed as a Maharashtra School Text Book for several years. He also authored ‘God on Weekdays’.

Fr. Schoch reiterated “The crime that the government commits is that they give a very low salary to teachers. In advanced countries, teachers enjoy an honoured place in society and earn a good salary; but not in India. In the land of the ‘Guru’, teachers are neglected. A nation that believes in its future should believe in education”. How very true!

Fr. Schoch studied Shankaracharya. He read books on Advaita. He was also interested in Tukaram and translated 39 of his poems to German.

Fr. Schoch made a very pertinent point on fairness and justice. He said that all his teachers were good, but one of them, Fr. Peter influenced him more than anyone else. If he had become a good Principal, it was primarily due to him. Fr. Schoch stated, “I saw the necessity of fairness and justice because he was very unjust to me. We learn as much from our bad teachers as from the good”.

Another important point to be noted is what he stated about his mother – he said his mother had a great respect for her children.

Fr. Schoch would always advise his students saying, “Do your utmost; love God and people, giving yourselves to them. Then you will really enjoy life and have many friends”.

Fr. Schoch, who was an institution by himself, motivated us students to strive and excel in all fields and to play the game in the right spirit. His was an endeavour to provide holistic education to his students, by building character and inculcating ethical conduct in us. This speaks volumes for his dedication and commitment to high moral values, which helped him make gentlemen out of his boys and make them responsible citizens of this great country.

He said “Naturally I fell in love with India. In addition to Poona, I also spent many years in Sangamner. I am grateful to India for having given me a chance to do a good job. A job I would not have been able to do anywhere else. God has been kind to me”. Two thoughts that constantly came up in his mind during his last days in Shrirampur were “my Mother and Poona”.

For the thousands of students, teachers, non-teaching staff, parents and other people who were fortunate to be acquainted with him, he was the motivating spirit behind some of the finest schools in India. A man of strong principle and belief, Fr. Schoch is no more, but he continues to live in the hearts of all his students.

Connecting Indians
Anup Y. Attavar
A student (ex Loyola) of Fr. Schoch &
Special Correspondent – Dwarka Parichay (Western India)