It was in the midst of such adverse circumstance that the young Rev. William Miller a brilliant graduate of the University of Aberdeen and Edinburgh arrived in Madras on Dec 9th 1862 to be the sole European representative of the Free Church of Scotland in India. Already many had proposed the closure of the school. A question was raised whether it was worthwhile to continue the declining schoolwork. But, Rev. Miller would not let it die. Soon Miller started taking more interest in the educational work of the Central Institution, with the result that it began to make steady progress. The vast programme outlined by Anderson was to be channelised into ordered discipline of University studies and he gave the whole of his life, his talents and fortune towards the cause.
The culture of the west conveyed through the medium of English was to make its full impact on Indian life. A perspective and effective administrator began re-organizing the declining institution by a two-fold reform, which on one hand sought to establish a division of labour among the missionaries, with those involved in religious activities to be wholly devoted to that and those who had taken education as their calling to be fully committed to it and on the
other sought to raise the competence of teachers by insisting on specialization through obtaining a degree in teaching. The results were beginning to show, three out of six students who applied for the Matriculation Examination, Qualified from the school. In 1867, a class was opened to prepare students for the B.A. Examination. The school had become a college of the Madras University.
The missionary strength was reinforced with the arrival of Dr. Craslaw, Mr. Macmillian, Mr.Race and Mr. Stevenson. Further administrative reforms of the Rev. Miller improved functional efficiency. He reorganized the finances, appointed Headmasters for the lower and the upper schools and utilized the services of the professors of the college to supervise work in school. Mr.C. Dharmalinga Mudaliar and later Mr. Raghava Chettiar were headmasters of the lower school, while Dr.Craslaw, Mr.Ross, Mr.Cooper, Mr.Skinner and Mr. Pittendrigh were the successive superintendents of it. Mr. Mangapathy Naidu was appointed Headmaster of the upper school to function under the direct supervision of the Principal. The school grew in strength and reputation in such a way as never to lose them again.
Ten years later in 1877, the Church missionary society and the Wesleyan missionary society responded to Miller’s invitation to be partners in the running of the institution. As a result of this initiative, the Central Institution was renamed Madras Christian College from 1stJanuary 1877.
Miller had the distinction of being the founder of the first students’ hostel in Madras in 1882. In 1895, one of the professors was appointed to act as superintendent and later headmaster of the school. Since 1900, in order to ease the burden on the principal, the high school was designated as the school department of MCC, and more powers were delegated to the superintendant. The college senate and council, however, continued to take all major decisions with regard to school affairs such as appointments, settlements, plans for development etc.,
Miller’s eyesight started failing gradually and his health deteriorated. He left Madras for good on 14th March 1907. In his last message, he advised the students to remain faithful to the values they have learnt. He passed away peacefully on 15thJuly 1923 in Edinburgh with his demise a great era in the history of Indian education came to an end.
It is also said that he had created a unique place for himself by creating a model Christian Institution in India and for his thoroughly selfless service for the youth. For long the college was called the Miller school. A statue of Miller was erected in front of the college at Parry’s corner in 1901, but was removed to the MCC School premises at Chetpet in 1985.
A little after the turn of the Century in 1911 to be exact there were 46 teachers and 888 pupils. There were considerable additions to furniture and equipment. The curriculum was updated and made more comprehensive. Sanskrit, Botany and commerce were introduced and the patterns of testing and evaluation were rationalized. A reference is made to pupils work being tested without the over burdening of examination in the school report of that year. Two libraries one for the pupils and another for the teachers, a museum and other components of the infrastructure became a permanent part of the school. The S.S.L.C pattern had become the general programme of the schools in the state.