NUS confers honorary degrees on Prof Tommy Koh and Prof Wang Gungwu

The University also celebrates the achievements of 13,975 graduates from the NUS Class of 2022; Philanthropic gift to establish new professorship in humanities and sciences

The National University of Singapore (NUS) today conferred its highest honour on two outstanding scholars and alumni: Professor Tommy Koh and Professor Wang Gungwu. They received honorary degrees from Mr Po’ad Mattar, NUS Pro-Chancellor, at the Main Ceremony of NUS Commencement 2022, which kicked off a series of 28 graduation ceremonies held over 10 days from 6 to 17 July.

The NUS Class of 2022 comprises 13,975 graduates: 7,571 students will receive Bachelor’s degrees and 6,404 will receive graduate degrees.

Prof Koh was presented with the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws, in recognition of his significant accomplishments, contributions and impact on NUS and globally in various areas including international law, diplomacy, arts, culture and heritage, and nature and the environment, and his distinguished services to Singapore.

Prof Wang was conferred the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters, in recognition of his significant accomplishments and impact on NUS and globally in academia and education, his outstanding scholastic achievements and his contributions towards highlighting NUS as a significant research venue for multiple fields in Southeast Asia.

They joined some 200 graduates from the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) who also received their degrees at the Main Ceremony held today.

NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye said, “We are immensely proud to confer honorary degrees on two exceptional NUS alumni – Prof Tommy Koh and Prof Wang Gungwu – who fully embody the ethos of NUS. In their lifelong pursuit of knowledge and excellence, they have made a deep and lasting impact on Singapore and globally in their respective fields. NUS is truly grateful for their many years of dedication and service.”    

Addressing graduates from the Class of 2022, Prof Tan encouraged them to take hold of the great possibilities and rise above the uncertainties in a world of dynamic change. “I am fully confident that the graduates of NUS today share the same ethos of excellence and service as the 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.”

This year, NUS will also be presenting pioneer graduates from 17 programmes (Please refer to the Annex 1 for the list of programmes).

2022 Honorary Doctor of Laws Recipient – Prof Tommy Koh

Prof Koh has dedicated his professional life to NUS, to Singapore, and to the world. He was a member of the first cohort of law students at the then University of Malaya – NUS’ predecessor institution – from 1957 to 1961. With graduate degrees from Harvard and Cambridge, he joined NUS Law and went on to serve as Dean, later chairing the Faculty’s Advisory Board for a decade. He has also served as Director and Chair of the Institute of Policy Studies (1991-2009) and Chairman of the Centre for International Law (2009-2022). He has also served as Rector of Tembusu College (2011-2022) and the Chairman of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum’s Advisory Committee (2015-2022). Prof Koh was appointed as Emeritus Professor in April 2022 in recognition of his distinguished careers at the faculty and outstanding contributions to the field of law.

In addition to this extensive service to NUS, he has also played key roles for Singapore, including as Permanent Representative to the United Nations (1968-1971, 1974-1984), and Ambassador to the United States (1984-1990). He was founding Chairman of the National Arts Council (1991-1996), Chairman of the National Heritage Board (2002-2011), and founding Executive Director of the Asia-Europe Foundation.

Prof Koh has also had a transformative role globally, including through his presidency of the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (1981-1982) and chairmanship of the Preparatory Committee for and the Main Committee at the 1992 Earth Summit. He has received many honours, including an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Yale University (1984), the Elizabeth Haub Prize for Environmental Law (1996), the UNEP Champion of the Earth Award (2006), and the Great Negotiator Award from Harvard (2014).

Please refer to Annex 2 for the citation.

2022 Honorary Doctor of Letters Recipient – Prof Wang Gungwu

Prof Wang is a leading figure in Sinology, a renowned public intellectual, and a visionary leader and administrator.

Professor Wang received his Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Malaya in Singapore. In 1957, he completed his doctorate on North China with University of London. His teaching career took him from the University of Malaya (Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, 1957-1968, Professor of History 1963-68) to The Australian National University (1968-1986), where he was Professor and Head of the Department of Far Eastern History and Director of the Research of Pacific Studies. From 1986 to 1995, he was Vice Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong.

In NUS, Prof Wang served in various leadership roles, including the Director of East Asian Institute of NUS (1997-2007), and Chairman of the Governing Board of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (2005-2017). As a highly regarded scholar, his views and expertise have proven to be invaluable to policymakers and diplomats.

In 2007, Prof Wang was conferred the title of University Professor by NUS for his outstanding leadership to the University and community, and in 2009, he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters to mark Cambridge University’s 800th anniversary. In 2020, Prof Wang was awarded the Tang Prize in Sinology for his “trailblazing and dissecting insights on the history of the Chinese world order, overseas Chinese, and Chinese migratory experience”. In the same year, he received the Distinguished Service Order in Singapore.

Please refer to Annex 3 for the citation.

About the NUS Peggy Wai Chee Leong-Hochstadt Professorship in Humanities and Sciences

NUS also announced a generous gift by its illustrious alumnus and former top civil servant Mr Herman Ronald Hochstadt to establish the Peggy Wai Chee Leong-Hochstadt Professorship in Humanities and Sciences at FASS. Named after the late Mrs Hochstadt who was the first Chief Librarian of NUS, the University is privileged to honour her leadership and contributions to the NUS Libraries and to the NUS community.

Building on Mr Hochstadt’s strong belief in the transformative power of education and in line with the spirit of cross-disciplinary learning at the NUS College of Humanities and Sciences (CHS), the new professorship will attract and support leading professors in the fields of English Language, English Literature, Theatre Studies, History, Philosophy, or Mathematics, further enriching and enhancing teaching and research in CHS.

Mr Hochstadt has been a long-time supporter of FASS and has previously set up the Hochstadt Scholarship in the Humanities in FASS in 2014. In 2019, NUS conferred on Mr Hochstadt the Distinguished Alumni Service Award, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to public service, and unwavering support for the NUS community.