In Memoriam: Mrs Ann Elizabeth Wee, social work pioneer

Mrs Wee at the NUS Alumni Awards ceremony on 27 November, where she was conferred the Distinguished Alumni Award

Mrs Ann Elizabeth Wee, doyenne of social work education in Singapore and Associate Professorial Fellow at NUS Social Work, passed away on 11 December at the age of 93.

Mrs Wee arrived in Singapore from her native United Kingdom in 1950 to be reunited with her future husband Mr Harry Lee Wee, whom she had met at the University of Cambridge. She joined the Social Welfare Department — now the Ministry of Social and Family Development — in 1955, which marked the start of a six-decade career in social work.

In 1957, Mrs Wee began teaching full time at the then University of Malaya’s Department of Social Work, which she helmed from 1967 until her retirement in 1986. As Head of NUS Social Work, Mrs Wee played an important role in the University’s decision to upgrade its two-year diploma course to a full-fledged Honours Degree programme. The Department established the Ann Wee NUS Social Work Alumni Award in her honour in 2014 to recognise excellence in social work.

For her contributions to the field of social work in Singapore, Mrs Wee was bestowed with the Public Service Star in 1972 and the Public Service Star (Bar) in 2004. Most recently she was conferred the Distinguished Arts and Social Sciences Alumni Award by NUS Arts and Social Sciences and the NUS Distinguished Alumni Award in 2019 in recognition of her lifelong dedication and contribution to social service and education.


Mrs Wee posing with NUS Social Work students at a party the Department threw in honour of her 90th birthday in 2016

“Mrs Ann Wee had a profound impact on the social work community, NUS and Singapore. She was the University’s longest-serving Head of the Social Work Department and played an instrumental role in shaping the social work landscape on this island. Even after retirement, Ann was a regular visitor to our University, and would often liven things up at our conferences and events with thoughtful questions and insightful comments. Ann’s passing is a great loss to NUS, Singapore, and everyone she inspired,” said NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Mrs Ann Wee. A tireless champion of the underprivileged, she was also the driving force behind the introduction of a full-fledged Honours Degree programme, which paved the way for social workers to be recognised as professionals, enjoy better career prospects, and gain access to policymaking. Mrs Wee was also an inspirational figure and mentor to many social workers in Singapore. NUS Arts and Social Sciences has not only lost a respected member of the community, but also a supportive and beloved friend,” said Associate Professor Esther Goh, Head of NUS Social Work.

Mrs Wee is survived by two daughters and four grandchildren.

Read more here.