Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bienvenido Ma. Gonzales on Stamps

Bienvenido Maria Gonzales was a two-term president of the University of the Philippines.

Gonzales was born on November 22, 1893 in Apalit, Pampanga. His father was the illustrious Joaquin Gonzales, the rector of Universidad Literaria de Filipinas, the first institution of higher learning that was created by President Emilio Aguinaldo during the Philippine Revolution.

He took up agriculture at the same state university and pursued further studies as one of the first Filipino pensionados at the University of Wisconsin, where he obtained a master in science. He took up doctoral studies at John Hopkins University.

Upon his return to the Philippines, he was named an assistant professor of animal husbandry at the university and reached tenure in just six years. He was promoted to become the department head, followed by successive stints as dean of the College of Agriculture in 1928.

He was appointed the sixth president of the University of the Philippines in 1939, amidst opposition because of his animal breeding provenance. At 46 years old, he was the youngest ever to be named UP president and he was the very first alumnus to be so honored. His term was characterized by his open attitude to students and faculty and the encouragement of the use of Tagalog as a national language.

He encouraged the establishment of a UP College of Nursing. Along with Juan Nakpil, future National Artist, and UP Music Conservatory director Ramon Tapales, he conceived the UP Carillon in 1940.

Upon the outbreak of World War II, he resigned from his position rather than serve under the Japanese. President Jose Laurel of the 2nd republic designated Antonio Sison as his successor. When the Philippine Commonwealth was re-established in 1945, Dr. Gonzales was reappointed as the eighth president. He holds the distinction of being the only 2-term head of the state university.

Dr. Gonzales' second term was characterized by extreme difficulty and poverty. The Diliman campus which had been just recently inaugurated before the war lay in shambles. The Padre Faura campus was destroyed. Libraries and laboratories were lost. He made the momentous decision to transfer the bulk of the university's operations to the then distant and barren area of Diliman, insisting that the bulk of new construction be located on the 493 hectare area donated by the Tuason Family. Amidst attacks from media and opposition figures, he persisted with his vision and succeeded in having the United States War Damage Commission pay P13 million for rehabilitation and construction.

Dr. Gonzales had strong opinions, even against the the incumbent Philippine President Elpidio Quirino. He lobbied for the disapproval of an honorary degree conferment on Indonesia President Sukarno. He invited the president's chief critic Senator Claro M. Recto to speak at the commencement exercises. He refused to accept the Philippine president's offer to join the cabinet. He resigned from his position in 1951.

He died two years after on December 30, 1953.

Date of Issue: June 1, 1990