With the leadership of Frank Parker, a director of soils research in the U.S. Department of Agriculture who left Washington to become chief agriculturalist and advisor to the Indian Ministry of Agriculture in 1952, a formal agreement was signed between the U.S. and Indian governments. The agreement was designed to strengthen Indian institutions concerned with agricultural instruction, research, and extension. The objectives would be achieved through purchase of educational materials, the interchange of staff between U.S. and Indian agricultural institutions, provision of additional U.S. specialists if needed, and the opportunity for Indians to pursue additional studies outside India. The agreement divided India into five regions, with one U.S. university assigned to the Indian universities within that region. The University of Illinois was assigned Region I, which included Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. U of I was already working with the Allahabad Agricultural Institute in Uttar Pradesh through an agreement signed two years earlier with the Department of State.
H.W. Hannah arrived in 1955 in Utter Pradesh to establish a plan to build a university at Uttar Pradesh and get approval and funding from the Indian government. The land that was set aside to build the university was a jungle swamp, a non-livable community that was quickly being built up for habitation with construction of a hospital, roads, laboratories, and a secondary school. Through two years of government stalling and positioning, the plan to build the university near the Tarai State Farm in this jungle area was approved in 1957.
During the U of I's tenure in Utter Pradesh beginning in 1959, six to eight faculty came to India at a time serving between 2 and 4 year terms for a period of 12 years. Dr. William Thompson, a team member on site at Utter Pradesh, shared that it was unusual for the project to start a university was in a place with nothing. All buildings and facilities had to be constructed in the jungle there. In 1965, drastic upheaval of the university board of directors, which was spurred by lack of state government support for the institution, caused removal of the entire administrative and governance team of the university. D.P. Singh was named vice chancellor of the university with complete control over its affairs until a new board of directors was chosen. Under Singh's leadership, many necessary upgrades took place, and the university flourished. The University of Illinois left Utter Pradesh in 1972, when President Nixon ordered Americans out of the near east. Tom McCowen lamented that their job was not complete, but left a well-running operation that still is in existence today.
The Madhya Pradesh projects started out as a regional program to help 12 to 13 small colleges improve their technical programs and curricula. Pressure from the Indian government caused the U of I to help the smaller schools form one new university at their state farm in Rigorpur. Teams were sent to India at the request of the Indians on site. The specialists in home science, veterinary medicine, basic science, and agriculture engineering were chosen based on their teaching and research functions here on campus.
Communication between the 12 to 13 locations was arduous. If communication to campus was needed, a letter was mailed in a diplomatic pouch and sent air mail, taking two weeks. Then a reply was generated on campus and sent back, taking another two weeks. Tom McCowen, then director of the project here on campus, said that the U of I staff on site would have to wait six weeks to get an answer to questions.
Research needs at Madhya Pradesh took first priority. The improved capabilities of the research farms allowed improved crop varieties and knowledge of ways to increase crop production through use of fertilizers and chemicals. In addition, an agricultural communications center was established, providing a vital extension role for the university.
With both of these university projects, more than 90 Illinois faculty traveled to India during the course of the two projects. In addition, Illinois hosted 250 Indian students for advanced degree programs, and assisted in the training of more than 800 staff in India.
The overall India program, including the five U.S. universities that participated, totaled more than $41,000,000. Illinois' expenditures during the program 1964-1972, equaled more than $7.5 million.