The NUS community thanked former NUS Chancellor Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam for his unstinting and dedicated service to the University at an appreciation lunch held on 30 November.
Dr Tony Tan’s relationship with the University began with his enrolment in the Department of Physics at the then University of Malaya in 1959. Topping his cohort, Dr Tony Tan graduated with a First Class Honours degree and returned to his alma mater as a lecturer with NUS Physics and thereafter with NUS Mathematics. In 1980, Dr Tony Tan was appointed as NUS Vice Chancellor, the youngest person to hold this position in the history of the University. As the Minister for Education from 1980 to 1981 and from 1985 to 1991, as well as Minister-in-charge for NUS and Nanyang Technological Institute from 1981 to 1983, he was a strong advocate for higher education in the nation. He was also conscious about keeping university education accessible, ensuring that deserving Singaporean students could benefit from the expanded opportunities regardless of their financial situation.
On 1 September 2011, Dr Tony Tan was sworn in as Singapore’s seventh President and concurrently, Chancellor of NUS. Paying tribute to Dr Tony Tan’s manifold contributions and admirable attributes, NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan said, “All of us admire him as a person who is visionary and bold. His leadership and ideas helped transform the university sector, creating a vibrant, dynamic and diversified higher education landscape offering Singaporeans more pathways to fulfil their potential, and meet the challenges of a globalised economy.”
“The NUS community has much to thank Dr Tony Tan for laying the framework and foundations that enabled NUS to become one of the leading universities in the world,” Prof Tan noted.
During his speech, Dr Tony Tan spoke fondly of his longstanding association with NUS, which spanned both personal and professional arenas. He had met his wife, Mrs Mary Tan on campus. He was a hostelite in Raffles Hall while Mrs Tan stayed in Eusoff College located across the road, which was a good arrangement, he quipped.
Dr Tony Tan appreciated the privilege of witnessing a period of tremendous growth during his term as NUS Chancellor, including the opening of University Town on Kent Ridge Campus — a first-of-its-kind model in the country’s higher education landscape; as well as the launch of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at NUS in 2015.
He commended NUS for its transformation from a teaching institution into a world-class university widely respected for its excellence in education and research. “[High-impact research] is needed not only to transform Singapore into a knowledge-based economy but to address complex and pressing societal challenges in fields as varied as ageing, environmental sustainability and risk management,” he said. NUS had also been ahead of its time in championing entrepreneurship education and expanding the entrepreneurial ecosystem locally and overseas, added Dr Tony Tan.
Highlighting the zest and enthusiasm he saw in new graduands when he presented them with their degree scrolls during Commencement, he said, “This gives me great hope for a brighter tomorrow for Singapore and our society.”