Former Chief Justice of Singapore Dr Yong Pung How passed away on 9 January 2020 at the age of 93.
Dr Yong, who received an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University in 2001, was the Trustee of the Yong Loo Lin Trust, a strong supporter of NUS.
“NUS is deeply saddened by the passing of Dr Yong Pung How, a trusted friend and generous benefactor of the University. Dr Yong was an outstanding public servant and a man of many talents. As Singapore’s former Chief Justice, he introduced sweeping reforms to reorganise and improve the judiciary, laying a strong foundation for a responsive and efficient judicial system that has served the nation and Singaporeans well,” said NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye.
In his 16-year career as Singapore’s top judge, Dr Yong’s innovative legal reforms included streamlining procedures and harnessing technology.
Dr Yong began his legal career with Messrs Shook Lin & Bok in Kuala Lumpur, primarily in criminal work. He later became a senior partner, and under his leadership the firm expanded rapidly in corporate and commercial practice. In 1964, when Dr Yong became an advocate and solicitor of Singapore, he moved to the Republic and set up the Singapore branch of the firm.
"Dr Yong Pung How was a towering figure in the law. Respected as Chief Justice — and occasionally feared — the sweeping reforms that he introduced helped establish Singapore’s reputation as a legal hub with a world-class judiciary. His legacy includes the enduring respect for the rule of law within Singapore, as well as the Republic’s international standing as a fair, impartial, and efficient centre for dispute resolution," recounted Dean of NUS Law Professor Simon Chesterman.
Dr Yong held numerous leadership appointments including positions at the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation, Singapore Press Holdings, and the then Singapore Broadcasting Corporation. He also served as the first Chairman of the Institute of Policy Studies.
“Dr Yong Pung How has left a legacy of public service in Singapore's legal and financial landscape that is both profound and far-reaching. Many of the nation's institutions now taken for granted have the form they do because of Dr Yong's engagement and contribution. At our School, the generosity and goodwill that his name attracted allowed us to set up an endowed Professorship in Dr Yong's honour, that we can continue to advance the teaching and research mission of the School,” said Professor Danny Quah, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. The School set up the endowed Professorship in 2008.
“As Trustee of the Yong Loo Lin Trust, Dr Yong was an ardent champion of education. The transformative gifts from the Trust to NUS have enabled the University to advance and deepen our teaching and research in areas including medicine, music, law, and public policy, which are critical to the growth and development of the country. Singapore has lost an eminent Chief Justice, one who served the nation with great integrity and dedication. We send our deepest condolences to Mrs Yong and Ms Yong Ying-I. The NUS community mourns the loss of an illustrious alumnus,” said NUS President Prof Tan.
“Dr Yong Pung How is a very valued member of the extended NUS community, so we are deeply saddened by his passing. At the same time, we celebrate his life with its many achievements and contributions and Dr Yong himself, as a great and truly remarkable man,” said Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, Executive Director of the Office for Healthcare Transformation at the Ministry of Health and NUS’ fourth President.
Dr Yong was instrumental in the gift of $100 million in 2005 to the then NUS Faculty of Medicine. The largest single gift to a Singapore tertiary institution by a private donor, it enabled the medical school to undertake critical research, revamp its teaching curriculum and introduce much-needed improvements to its infrastructure. The school was renamed the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine in honour of this gift.
“Dr Yong Pung How transformed medicine in Singapore and the region through the Yong Loo Lin Trust. Generations of students, faculty and researchers are beneficiaries of the Trust’s support of the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and the National University Cancer Institute, Singapore in education and research. The Trust has touched more lives than imagined and Dr Yong’s legacy will live through the work of the Trust’s beneficiaries. Our thoughts are with Mrs Yong and Ms Yong Ying-I during this difficult time,” said NUS Senior Vice President (Health Innovation & Translation) Professor John Eu-Li Wong, who is also Isabel Chan Professor in Medical Sciences.
Professor Chong Yap Seng, Dean of the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, said, “We remember Dr Yong Pung How with deep gratitude and mourn his passing. His legacy lives on, in the School’s continuing progress and success in our twin missions of educating tomorrow’s doctors and nurses and finding solutions to the healthcare challenges of our time.”
Dr Yong also played a key role in the development of the NUS Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (YST), Singapore’s first conservatory. The Yong Loo Lin Trust donated $25 million which helped found the Conservatory in 2003, and donated another $25 million to it in 2008.
“We are saddened by the passing of Dr Yong Pung How, who was not only a key pillar of support to YST, but also a valued friend. We will always be grateful for his crucial work in helping YST to secure its endowment during its founding days, as well as his vision, dedication, advice and patronage. His continuing advocacy for the deep intrinsic value of the arts in Singapore was much valued by all who knew him. On behalf of all staff, students, faculty and alumni at the Conservatory, we express our deepest condolences to his family,” shared Professor Bernard Lanskey, Dean of YST.
For his valuable contributions to the nation, Dr Yong received two National Day Awards — the Distinguished Service Order in 1989 and Singapore’s highest award, the Order of Temasek (First Class) in 1999.