Frederick William Sudmersen served as the founder Principal of Cotton College from its founding in 1901 till 1926 nurturing it from infancy till adulthood. A college which started with only five professors and thirty seven students soon became one of the finest colleges under Calcutta University.

 

Trivia : Sudmersen was only thirty one when he assumed the responsibility of heading the newly established institution. He was not present at the inaugural function though he reached Guwahati on time. There's an interesting anecdote related to this.

Prior to joining Cotton College, Sudmersen taught at Bareily College for five years. He travelled to Guwahati in a steamer which he took from Goaland and after a three day journey disembarked at the Sukreshwar Ghat. Sudmersen was dead tired and he headed straight to a dak bungalow reserved for him. The planters (the bungalow served as a transit camp for tea planters) who were present questioned the wisdom of Sudmersen’s coming over to Guwahati from Bareilly and assured him of the “impossibility of finding any place of residence” in the kala azar-infected town. He then went out for a walk and saw " a long building, with a projection at one end, earth floors 6" above the ground level, mat doors and windows, smelly, earthy damp and absolutely bare of furniture." Three huge figures came out from the building and from a distance they looked like middle-aged men. On the way, Sudmersen met Indubhushan Brahmachari, a newly appointed Professor (he taught Mathematics and Logic). It was from him that Sudmersen came to know that the building he was gazing at is the Hindu Hostel and Brahmachari the hostel warden. He was then introduced to the three men who had come out from the hostel. They were to be his students. A depressed Sudmersen stayed away from the college’s inaugural function and closeted himself in the cottage for the next three days. “I seriously contemplated returning there (Bareilly) — two or three days passed in depression and uncertainty,” wrote Sudmersen, 50 years later in his reminiscences. It is said that the members of the European Club of Guwahati ensured a regular supply of ice to his dak bungalow during the hot summer of 1901 to “cool him down!!”

The students feared this man of stature. Sudmersen used to cultivate peas in front of his residence. But to everyone's surprise, the peas were never consumed. One day some students planned to steal the peas and by the end of the night they stole all of them. A ferocious Sudmersen called for the students the next day and with a cane in his hand asked who were the culprits. One of them was Mahendranath Deka Phukan. He came forward and said, “I did it Sir. I saw the peas being wasted and therefore thought of having them.” Tears rolled down the eyes of Principal Sudmersen as he began narrating the story of his son who had passed away in a bicycle accident. The deceased son loved peas and to commemorate his birth anniversary Sudmersen and his wife grew green peas every year. Phukan got a pat on the back from Mr. Sudmersen for being courageous enough to confess and then let him go.

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