Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek”. Mario Andretti
No one exemplified this quote more than Dr. Fabian Fernandes.
In keeping with this Issue’s theme of Excellence, the KCA takes you ‘Down the Corridors of Time’ to highlight one of India’s most eminent microbiologists, a scientist of international repute, a Mangalorean and a former President of the KCA, Dr. Fabian Fernandes, M.Sc, Ph.D.
Dr. Fernandes was born in Kemman, Kallianpur, on August 29, 1917, the oldest of eight children of Michael and Cecilia Fernandes. He did his basic schooling in Kemman, and then moved to Bombay to complete his studies at St. Xavier’s College. After finishing his Master’s in Microbiology, the field he excelled in, he was on the Staff of the College from 1941 to 1959.
He received his Ph.D in Microbiology in 1951, and in 1953 was made Head of the Department of Microbiology. He left St. Xavier’s in 1959 to join the Ciba-Geigy Research Centre. By now, he had established himself as a scientist of repute, having published over 30 research papers in Indian and international scientific journals. He traveled abroad extensively to lecture, to attend symposia, study tours and workshops; and was a high ranking Member of several national and international bodies on Microbiology. He was presented with the highest International Cell Research Organisation Award. He was a Member of the Bombay University Senate for over 25 years.
Despite his busy academic schedule, he still made time for various civic and social services. He was a Justice of the Peace, and a Special Executive Magistrate for ten years. He was the Vice-President of the Catholic Gymkhana for over 12 years. He was Vice-President of the National Advisory Council to the Catholic Bishops Conference of India.
He was also President of the KCA for four consecutive years from 1971 – 1975. As President, he stressed on the need to increase the membership of the KCA, which in those years was a meagre 300. In his first year as President, he hoped to get more Mangaloreans to join the KCA, and set a target of achieving a total membership of 2000. With a view to attracting more Members, he initiated the weekly Housie sessions, which proved to be very popular. He also encouraged the annual dances and picnics, which the Members looked forward to.
In 1972, along with the Managing Council, he got the Rules and Regulations of the KCA amended to be more inclusive and non-sectarian, while not diluting the main characteristic of the Association. The purview of the Balloting Committee was enhanced and strengthened. During his tenure, the KCA started the Scholarship Fund to assist students who could not pay their fees.
In 1975, he proposed holding the AGM after a Thanksgiving Mass, and quipped that because of this, for the very first time in his Presidency, there was a quorum for the AGM! He lamented that the KCA had not managed to increase its membership substantially, and that due to work-related issues, he was stepping down as President. This was also because 1976 would be the 75th year of the KCA’s existence, and a robust team needed to be in place to plan the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations. Dr. Stany Patrao was elected as the next President.
Mr. G J Saldanha spoke very highly of Dr. Fernandes, and thanked him for his services to the KCA. Despite his extremely busy schedule, Dr. Fernandes had made the time to attend every single Meeting of the Managing Council. He often visited the hostel, and helped to resolve several problems. He was keen that the KCA reach out to more Mangaloreans, and encourage them to meet and bond, and also offer help to youngsters arriving in Bombay for work by providing accommodations at the hostel at reasonable rates.
Dr. Fernandes was married to Grace D’Souza, and was the father of Margaret, Maria, Peter, John, Teresa, and Veera; 4 of whom are Doctors. He was a loving grandfather to 14 grandchildren, 3 of whom are Doctors, 3 in Medical School, and perhaps, more will follow suit! Dr. Fernandes excelled not only in science, but also in the culinary arts. He was renowned for his culinary skills in traditional Mangalorean dishes, and all his children remember his prowess in the kitchen, and delicious curries!
Dr. Fernandes spent his final years in the United States with his children, and passed away peacefully on July 15, 2007, and is buried in Sts. Peter and Paul Cemetery in Philadelphia.