Commencement 2022: Kickstarting a season of celebration and achievement

NUS celebrates the milestone accomplishments of 13,975 graduates through 28 in-person ceremonies

A long-awaited season of celebration is officially under way, with the inaugural ceremony of Commencement 2022 marking the milestone achievements of some 200 Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) graduates, and seeing the conferment of two Honorary Graduates, Professor Tommy Koh and Professor Wang Gungwu.

Taking place at the University Cultural Centre, the ceremony kicked off bright and early on 6 July to an effervescent buzz of anticipation from the graduates and their loved ones, inaugurating a total of 28 in-person ceremonies to be held over the following 10 days.

In keeping with the Commencement traditions and the proud ceremonial heritage of NUS, the ceremony showcased the pageantry of the Ceremonial Procession, the fanfare, and playing of the National Anthem, all culminating in the highlight of the ceremony—the presentation of graduates. Graduates from the Class of 2022 celebrated their achievements amid the applause of family and friends, a momentous apogee of their time in NUS.

Speaking at the ceremony, NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye reflected on the qualities needed for graduates to thrive in today’s dynamic environment: an attitude of resilience and adaptability to overcome challenges, and a willingness and boldness to view problems as opportunities, exercise creativity, and apply their skills and knowledge to create solutions.

For the Class of 2022, you are crossing the threshold into a wider world of dynamic change and great possibilities, but also of discomforting uncertainty,” he said.

“But I am fully confident that the NUS graduates of today share the same ethos of excellence and service to community of generations past. In time to come, you will undoubtedly make your own unique contributions, and become the vanguard in elevating our collective prosperity and well-being.”

Contributions to law, nature and culture: Prof Tommy Koh

Two illustrious NUS alumni were also honoured as Honorary Graduates for the Class of 2022—lawyer and diplomat Professor Tommy Koh, and historian Professor Wang Gungwu.

In recognition of his dedication as a practitioner-scholar and decades of service to the University, Singapore, and the world, Prof Koh, who wears many hats including Ambassador-at-Large at Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Special Advisor of the Institute of Policy Studies, and founding Rector of NUS’ Tembusu College, was conferred the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws.

Highlighting three areas on which he has focused his energies — law, nature, and culture — Prof Koh said, “I chose to study law, not to enrich myself, but to pursue justice and to promote the rule of law.”

He also spoke about his work concerning nature and the environment, including chairing the 1992 Earth Summit, being patron of the Nature Society, and helping NUS establish the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum as its founding Chairman. “My vision is to live in harmony with nature.  My agenda is to promote sustainability in all our endeavours,” he added. “I am [also] glad that I have been able to play a very small role in transforming Singapore, from a cultural desert to a cultural oasis.”

Delivering the citation for Prof Koh’s conferment, Professor Simon Chesterman, Vice-Provost (Educational Innovation) and Dean of the NUS Faculty of Law and NUS College, referred to Prof Koh’s “academic milestones [which] are but one strand of the rich tapestry of his professional life”, as well as his leadership and guidance in education at NUS, and his eminent contributions to state and environmental diplomacy.

An inspiring story worth retelling: Prof Wang Gungwu

Prof Wang, one of the world's foremost experts on the Chinese diaspora and Sino-Southeast Asian historical relations, was conferred the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters, the latest in a long list of accolades that includes the prestigious Tang Prize in Sinology, and the Distinguished Service Order of Singapore.

Reflecting on his time as a student of the University in colonial Malaya, Prof Wang said: “You can imagine how happy I am to be a graduand again with my alma mater. The university gave my generation a good start in life. It went on to adapt to the rapid changes of our time. In so doing, it has come out better and stronger.”

He spoke about the “inspiring story worth retelling” of how the University had set out and followed its own aspirations, becoming a major centre of learning by being actively connected to the world, as well as regularly reinventing itself.

“The way our university strives to keep our humanity always in our sights is something to be very proud of. I hope that all of us graduating today, no matter where life leads us, will never hesitate to help our university to enhance this capacity to advance our human condition,” Prof Wang stressed.

Prof Lionel Wee, Dean of FASS and co-Dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences,  who delivered the citation on Prof Wang’s conferment, lauded the latter as “an eminent figure and brilliant mind” who has made manifold contributions as a leading figure in Sinology, a renowned public intellectual, and a visionary leader and administrator at leading academic institutions around the world.

“This doctorate symbolises the meaningful connections between Professor Wang and the University, and it celebrates the long-standing contributions and value that Professor Wang’s scholarly insights bring to Singapore, to Southeast Asia and, indeed, to the world,” he said.

Parsing the path forward

Infusing the celebrations with a spirit of introspective gratitude, Valedictorian Mr Nickson Quak, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours (Highest Distinction) in Philosophy, Politics, And Economics said, “As varied as our journeys may have been, each and every one of us graduates here could have only made it thus far because of the unwavering support that our parents, our families, our loved ones, and our friends have so generously afforded us.”

His words further summarised the spirit of determination and community that will carry graduates onwards in their lives: “If [the journey ahead] appears daunting to you, I say to you: fret not… because when you look to your left and your right, you see the resilient men and women who, forged by the challenges brought upon by the global pandemic, will always offer you a helping hand.”

This story is part of NUS News’ coverage of Commencement 2022, which celebrates the achievements of our 13,975 graduates through 28 in-person ceremonies. For more on Commencement, look out for our upcoming graduate profiles, check out the official Commencement website, or look up (and tag) #NUS2022 on our social media channels!

Read the press release on the Honorary Graduates here.