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Tan Tai Yong appointed President of Yale-NUS College

14 March 2017 | Education
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Prof Tan Tai Yong will become President of Yale-NUS College from 1 July 2017

Prominent historian Professor Tan Tai Yong will become President of Yale-NUS College (Yale-NUS) from 1 July 2017. Prof Tan had served as Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs) at Yale-NUS since 2014.

Said Prof Tan, “It is the greatest privilege to be appointed to lead this innovative institution that has been reinventing education in the liberal arts and sciences for this century. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance the College in the coming years as we equip this generation of outstanding students for leadership in every sector of society. I am confident that our graduates will use the broader perspective and empathy they have developed at the College to serve their communities in Singapore and around the world.”

Prof Tan was appointed the President of the College by the Yale-NUS Governing Board after an extensive global search lasting seven months. The Yale-NUS Presidential Search Committee was co-chaired by Professor Richard C Levin, President Emeritus of Yale University, and Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, President of NUS. Other members of the search committee included senior Yale-NUS faculty Professor Terry Nardin and Associate Professor Khoo Hoon Eng, and Yale-NUS Governing Board members Ms Linda Lorimer, former Vice President at Yale University, and Ms Chong Siak Ching, Chief Executive Officer of the National Gallery Singapore.

The search process commenced when Professor Pericles Lewis, the Founding President of Yale-NUS and Professor of Humanities, indicated that he would be stepping down at the end of his term of appointment in May 2017. President Lewis returns to Yale University as the inaugural Vice President for Global Strategy and Deputy Provost for International Affairs.

Said President Lewis of Prof Tan Tai Yong’s appointment, “I am overjoyed to be handing over stewardship of this remarkable College to my friend and colleague Tan Tai Yong. His wisdom, energy, and calm have improved Yale-NUS immeasurably since he joined the College full-time two and a half years ago. A leader who understands the faculty, staff, and students well, Tai Yong is poised to take the College to further heights of excellence in the coming years. When I return to New Haven, I look forward to working with Tai Yong to ensure the continued success of Yale-NUS.”

In a message to the Yale-NUS community, Prof Levin and Prof Tan Chorh Chuan noted that President Designate Tan Tai Yong had been unanimously recommended to the Yale-NUS Governing Board by the search committee.

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From right: Prof Tan Tai Yong; Madam Kay Kuok, Chair of the Yale-NUS Governing Board; Prof Levin; Prof Tan Chorh Chuan; Prof Salovey;  Ms Lorimer; and Ms Chong during the announcement

Prof Tan Tai Yong has a long association with the College. From May 2011, he co-chaired the joint Yale and NUS committee that hired inaugural faculty members in the humanities, and advised on the formation of the common curriculum. He was later approached by President Lewis in 2014 to serve as the College’s Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs).

Prof Tan is credited for strengthening the common curriculum following a review that he chaired in 2014, as well as for enhancing research at the College, clearer communication of academic policies, and improvements in the College’s laboratory and library facilities. 

It is the greatest privilege to be appointed to lead this innovative institution that has been reinventing education in the liberal arts and sciences for this century. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance the College in the coming years as we equip this generation of outstanding students for leadership in every sector of society. I am confident that our graduates will use the broader perspective and empathy they have developed at the College to serve their communities in Singapore and around the world.

In the community letter, Prof Levin and Prof Tan Chorh Chuan noted that Prof Tan Tai Yong also enjoys the respect of Yale colleagues, and that of Yale University President Professor Peter Salovey and Yale Provost Professor Ben Polak.

Said Prof Salovey in the same note, “I am delighted that Tai Yong will become the College’s next President. He is respected by the leadership of Yale and by many faculty colleagues with whom he has worked over the years. He and I are eager to build even stronger connections between Yale in New Haven and Yale-NUS.”

Prof Tan has a First Class Honours degree from NUS and a PhD in History from Cambridge University. He was Dean of NUS Arts and Social Sciences for six years, and later Vice Provost (Student Life) at NUS from 2010 to 2014. During those years, he was one of the key architects of academic and student life programmes at University Town.

Prof Tan has been a member or chair of 11 educational, cultural and charitable organisations in Singapore, including service as Chair of the National Collections Advisory Panel of the National Heritage Board. He was one of nine Nominated Members of Parliament in 2014. A noted historian of South and Southeast Asian history, Prof Tan served as founding Director of the NUS Institute of South Asian Studies, and is on the Editorial Board of the journal Modern Asian Studies (Cambridge) and the International Editorial Board of India Review (USA).

Prof Tan Chorh Chuan said, “A highly effective academic leader, Tai Yong is widely respected for his leadership qualities, strong interpersonal skills, empathy and grace. He is deeply committed to liberal arts education in general and is truly passionate about Yale-NUS College in particular. I am confident his outstanding leadership qualities and his ability to work closely with the Yale-NUS community will help propel the College to new heights of excellence and distinctiveness. In addition, his extensive international and regional connections will further advance the College’s pioneering efforts to reimagine liberal arts and science education in Asia and beyond.”

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