The newly graduated Class of 2017 was honoured at the annual Commencement Dinner on 14 July. Held for the first time at Ridge View Residential College (RVRC), the dinner was attended by some 300 guests, including NUS Pro-Chancellors Mr Po'ad Mattar and Mr Chan Sek Keong; NUS Chairman Mr Hsieh Fu Hua; current and former Board of Trustee members; NUS senior administrators, as well as faculty, staff, students and alumni.
Accompanied by performances of familiar tunes by student groups RVRC Jukebox, the NUS Jazz Band, and “The Fine Tune” — a cover band formed by NUS students, the dinner gave the guests a chance to reflect on and celebrate the past year.
Outgoing NUS Students’ Union Vice President, Class of 2017 Representative and NUS Business graduate Ong Zhang Yao took the opportunity to reminisce on his first moments in the University. He recalled the pact he made with himself to make the best of his university life, and how he pushed himself to fulfil it — through activities in the NUSSU committee, his exchange programme and in his residential college. He shared his belief in continuing to press on even when it seems too difficult. “When you look back, you will realise that things start to fall into place, no matter how unsure you were at that point of time,” he said.
Looking ahead, Zhang Yao exhorted his fellow graduates to never stop learning and to not be afraid to explore uncharted territories. He also encouraged them to give back to the community. “As privileged members and graduates of a prestigious university, we have an obligation to contribute our skills and knowledge to society at large,” he added.
The theme of recollection was also the centre of NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan's speech. He regaled the audience with anecdotes of memorable moments from the past year, from trying his hand at frying fish at the NUS Day of Service to the eye-opening NUS Computing student inventions he had a chance to observe, as well as insightful conversations he had with researchers.
Prof Tan believed his experiences would ring familiar to many of the graduates. The memories of working closely on community improvement programmes with peers, the pains and joys of project work, or the thrill of interacting with Professors at the top of their fields, would all be part of what they take back from their university years.
“Life is hard to predict, but I would not be surprised if for many of you, the lessons learnt from these experiences would turn out to be very useful at some point of your careers,” he told the graduates.
As his speech drew to a close, he amused the crowd with a self-penned verse in rhyme. Amid the ensuing applause and laughter, Prof Tan reminded the graduates that "along the way, through the ups and downs of your future careers, through the twists and turns that life holds for all of us, don't forget the light moments, the power of humour, and most of all to live a full life and one that is multidimensional."
As he proposed a toast to the graduates, he welcomed them into the alumni family and urged them to keep their ties with the University.