Who Was Prof. A S Davis?
It was 1965 . . . few pairs of eyes rolled watching a boy being grabbed by his neck from his room D-231 at RK Hall, by a Professor and taken to the laboratory.
The Professor was A S Davis from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at IIT Kharagpur. The young boy was Vinod Gupta (B.Tech./AG/1967), now an entrepreneur and philanthropist. Recently, Vinod has donated USD 100,000 to his alma mater IIT Kharagpur to set up a Chair Professorship in the memory of Prof. Davis.
The teacher who won’t let me miss my lessons . . .
It was 1962, when a boy from Rampur Maniharan, a village near UP’s Saharanpur entered the gates of the first IIT. After admission, he was allotted Room No. D-231 in the Radhakrishnan Hall of Residence (RK Hall). There he met Prof. Davis for the first time where the latter was the warden.
Vinod Gupta during his student life at IIT KGP
“I was one among the hundreds of students who knew him and took courses from him. In our times, teachers like Prof. Davis personally saw to it that we learned our courses well. He made sure that we learned the missed lesson, our lab work was done right before we left. He insisted that the answer to every question was done on one page, on the right side, and the left side was for our calculations,” reminisces Vinod who took two courses from him, one in Thermodynamics and the other in air conditioning and refrigeration.
But it was much more than the teachings of a professor influencing a student’s life . . .
“Prof. Davis emphasized that the process was more important than the results. His teachings have influenced my life in a very significant way. But that was one among the several influencing factors he had on me. Prof. Davis used to spend a lot of time in the Hall, mentoring students through long hours of socialization. What inspired me most about him was that, besides being a brilliant teacher and a great communicator, he was an extremely practical human being with a wit equally matching his brilliance,” remarked Vinod in his usual way while remembering his golden moments of the 60s’ at IIT Kharagpur.
Honouring my Professor . . .
“I believe the easiest but the most profound way to influence the world is to uplift the education system. That was my inspiration in setting up a scholarship in my department at IIT Kharagpur within 5 years of my graduation. That remains my inspiration in setting up this endowment, 51 years after my graduation,” he said.
The endowment for Prof. A. S. Davis Chair Professorship will be used to pay a top-up salary to a senior professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the area of Thermodynamics to carry out the state-of-the-art teaching, research and other development in the department.
Vinod Gupta, today synonymous to the introduction of management and legal education in the IIT system. The Vinod Gupta School of Management and the Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law are Tier-I schools in areas of business management and law in India. Despite setting up his base in USA, Vin, as he is popularly known at IIT KGP and among fellow alumni, has continued his philanthropic work at IIT KGP and in villages of Uttar Pradesh. Vinod has not only nurtured young talents and the education system but has also saluted those who have inspired him to excel.
Finding that one Prof. Davis of today . . .
I am confident despite the increasing teacher-student ratio, there are teachers who innovate pedagogical methods to augment individual attention and mentorship” hopes Vinod.
We were taught Thermodynamics by Prof Davis in our third year (1965-66). He was excellent in the precise delivery of his lectures – to the point and not beating around the subject confusing the beginners. His class was one we never wanted to miss because of the high dose of wit and humour accompanying the technical content. I was in RK Hall for seven years myself (B.Tech & M.Tech) and he as the Asstt. Warden was one who would casually walk through the hostel to interact informally with the students. If a bunch of students were smoking and he walked into the room, he would immediately declare -“Don’t put your hands inside your kurtas and burn the dress, in fact I am going to light one myself”. One of the amusing traits of Prof. Davis was to insist on 40-pages notebooks for the assignments. Anything less or more, he would dump them in the waste basket without a word.
It was our habit to write the statement “we know that” to state the established formula (such as PV=RT) during the course of a derivation in the paper. He would circle that statement in his trademark red pen, draw an arrow to the margin and write in his crystal-clear handwriting -“leave me out of it”!
He was a darling teacher to us who combined fun and humour to all his teachings and interactions.
I was his student 1959-60 and colleague from 1960-66. He was very good at checking grammar, spelling and punctuation for question papers. He was in the Refrigeration Laboratory of the Mechanical Engineering Department.
Professor Davis was a friend and colleague at IIT Kgp. I always appreciated his wit and ready smile.
Sad to note that he is no more. Glad that Vinod Gupta set up a Professorship in his memory.
IIT Kharagpur and her students have been blessed with truly exceptional and inspirational professors. I’m reminded of another professor from the Refrigeration Lab., late Ramesh C. Arora. He was also the first director of the School of Medical Science and Technology. He too was brilliant, chariasmatic and strict. He influenced and helped many students to pursue their dreams. One of his students, Sandipan Ghosh Moulic, currently holds the Refrigeration Lab professorship.
As a proud alumni of IIT Kharagpur (B. Tech ECE 1985) and also a neighbor of Prof A. S. Davis, while I was growing up in Trichy (early 70s), it is truly gratifying to come across this. He used to work at the Mechanical Engineering Department in REC, Trichy (now NIT Trichy).
I was also a student of Prof.Davis sir.It happens I was a class mate and also Patel hall mate of Sri Jayananda.
I am extremely happy to remember those wonderful days and time spent at IIT campus.
Really a great gesture on the part of Vinod Gupta to keep himself attached to the great institution and to his teacher in particular. Really IIT professors were very caring to their students, even my time in 1960 when entered KGP. I am sure same spirit is continuing today and why institution is an international brand. Wish IIT system keep on innovating continuously to be competitive globally.