Francis Soundararaj, one of Asia’s top phonetics teachers, has passed away
The famous spoken English teacher, academician and theologian Reverend Francis Soundararaj died in Chennai on Friday. The 86-year-old former principal of the first Madras Christian College (MCC) suffered from Parkinson’s disease and dementia in recent years. He is survived by his wife Caroline and his son Prasanna.
âI have lost a very dear friend,â said Professor VS Venkataramanan, former English HOD. Recalling his short conversation with Dr Francis on New Years Day, Professor VSV told NDTV: “He was an excellent teacher, a self-made man known for his hard work.” He added: “He was a serious teacher who never went to any class without preparation. He was a disciplinarian but a good hearted man with a sense of humor.”
Originally from southern Tamil Nadu, Dr Francis did his Masters at MCC and joined the Faculty of English in 1958 and became the Principal in 1989.
He continued his post-doctoral program in Edinburgh, Scotland, and was an authority not only in English literature but also in phonetics. Known for his impeccable pronunciation and teaching phonetics, his spoken English and public speaking classes were a hit with students. “He was one of the best in Asia. No one in that part of the world was able to speak the received pronunciation like Dr Francis did,” says Professor V Rajagopalan, former student, colleague and doctoral student of Dr Francis .
Dr Soundararaj has played a key role in higher education by actively participating in the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), Tamil Nadu State Council for Higher Education and international bodies.
“Dr Francis was a prominent figure in higher education in India and a renowned Tamil linguist and specialist, whose work influenced generations of scholars in India and abroad. They were not only drawn to him. for his scholarship, but also for his kindness and generosity, his wise laughter and his clear personal commitment to the success and well-being of his students, ârecalls Preston Merchant, photographer and former adjunct professor at Columbia Journalism School.
Her students around the world expressed their grief and shared fond memories of their favorite teacher, affectionately known as Francis. âI still remember his impeccable pronunciation. It was indeed a privilege to learn from the best, âsays Fabiola Jacob, an MCCian. Joycia Thorat, based in Mumbai, said: “I remember his patience in teaching phonetics. He was passionate and professional in his teaching.” Anita Thomas in Canada shared, “He was an absolutely amazing teacher. He fascinated me with Paradise Lost”.
Gigy Jenson summed up: âHe was one of my favorite teachers. Although he comes from a vernacular, he was fluent in the English language. I haven’t heard anyone speak the language so perfectly â.
Dr Soundararaj also taught at Government Arts College, Salem, headed the English department at St John’s College, Palayamkottai, and was the first principal of Kodaikanal Christian College after his retirement. âMy sincere condolences to his family. I had a special bond with him and learned so much, a role model in so many ways, he will be sorely missed,â said Vinayy Premkumar, Dubai and alumnus of Kodaikanal Christian College .
Vinith victor, another former student now in the United States said: “Such a good teacher. The phonetics he rocked”.
âGrateful and honored to have secured my first teaching assignment at KCC when he was Principal,â said Dr Ashley Susan Philip, currently Assistant Professor of English at Mar Thoma College in Kerala.
An excellent speaker and prolific writer, Dr Francis has published several books, research papers and guided several researchers in their doctoral and post-doctoral programs. Sharing his thoughts from Tennessee, retired professor Dr Manohar Samuel said: âA scholar scholar, he has taught linguistics, especially phonetics, with a passion exceptionally well. He made it seem so simple that it stuck with us for a long time. pride in the work he has done diligently. As thesis supervisor, he guided me by meticulously examining every detail. He was very accessible, humble and hardworking. He will be missed.