June 30, 1891, is a golden letter day in the history of Canara, because it was on this auspicious day that the seed of “CANARA”, a great Educational Institution was sown by that great legendary soul, Sri Ammembal Subba Rao Pai who along with four visionaries accomplished this noble task in the form of Canara High School.With a view to encouraging the education of girls, he started the Canara Girls’ High School, indeed a revolutionary step considering the then prevalent values and attitude of the people towards girl’s education at that time. This initiative was backed by measuring out a fistful of day’s rice, set apart by ladies of the area. The proceedings of the same were used for the noble cause of education. This was called as “Mushti” (Fistful) Fund.
The decision to venture Canara College was in response to the growing demand for collegiate education at then from the old students and well-wishers of the Canara High School Association, and a general need to have an institution of higher learning which could impart the qualitative education at an affordable cost in Mangaluru. The encouraging support of the philanthropic public of Mangaluru soon resulted in the establishment of Canara College. The foundation stone of the College building was laid on July 12, 1972 by Dr. A.P. Pai, Senior Life Member of the College Committee. The College is indebted to its past President, the Late U. Gopalkrishna Nayak, who was instrumental in the edifice of the new buildings for the three High Schools, Junior College and the present First Grade College as well. The College building was declared open on the July 04, 1973, by Mr. Holck Larsen, the then Chairman and Managing Director of Larsen & Toubro Ltd.