Canara High School Association (CHSA) was founded by Sri Ammembal Subba Rao Pai with the sole purpose of imparting the youth of Dakshina Kannada with modern education blended with ancient cultural values. He was a great social reformer and philanthropist with a rare combination of the ideal and practical. His concern for social upliftment gave birth to the Canara High School , Mangalore in 1891- the century old precursor to the conglomeration of Canara educational institutions of today, while his spirit of enterprise gave birth to yet another national institution – the Canara Bank, in 1906.
Canara High School has grown into a dozen educational institutions, imparting quality education to over 7000 young boys and girls of this part of Karnataka from Nursery level to graduation. Canara Engineering College is the new millenium project of Canara High School Association, for which careful planning and preparation was going on right from 1991-92, the centenary year of Canara High School Association.
Born on 19th November, 1852, at Mulky, near Mangalore, Ammembal Subba Rao Pai underwent early schooling at Government High School, Mangalore, and it was the early demise of his mother that is believed to have profoundly influenced him to take to studies seriously. After passing his F.A. Examination, his father sent him to Madras to take up higher studies. Following his graduation from the Presidency College, he joined the Madras Law College. There he came into contact with Justice Holloway, whose remarkable personality proved to be a rewarding experience to him.
In 1876, following the demise of his father, he returned to Mangalore and successfully practiced Law (It is said that he often attempted to persuade amicable out-of-court settlements for his clients, although this sometime cost him his fee). In 1891, four teachers, whom he had met in Madras, approached him with a proposal to start a school in Mangalore and thus was born the Canara High School, Mangalore. Shortly thereafter, in 1894, with a view to encourage the education of girls, he started the Canara Girls High School, indeed a revolutionary step considering the prevalent values and attitude of the people towards ladies education at that time.
The disastrous crash of the Arbuthnot Company at the beginning of the 20th Century prompted him to start – in 1906 – The Canara Hindu Permanent Fund Ltd. (now Canara Bank) with a view to enabling the community to mobilise its own resources for self-help. Among his important contributions to the GSB community was the setting up of the 'Poor Boys Education Fund' (which became ASRP Memorial Fund as per the decision taken at a meeting of the GSB Community held in the Bhuvanendra Hall on 1st August 1909) under the aegis of Gowda Saraswath Brahman Parishad, of which he was one of the founders. Throughout his life, Ammembal Subba Rao Pai suffered from a severe gout, an affliction to which he finally succumbed on 25th July 1909.