NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences honours distinguished alumni

Five eminent individuals lauded for their contributions towards nation-building, growth of the University and promotion of the arts and social sciences

The National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) tonight celebrated the achievements of five eminent alumni at the FASS Distinguished Arts and Social Sciences Alumni Awards 2021, in recognition of their distinguished scholarship and outstanding service to the Faculty, the University and Singapore. 

Established since 2015, the 2021 award recipients include Singapore’s Ambassador to Japan, Mr Peter Tan; Minister for Communications and Information and Second Minister for Home Affairs, Mrs Josephine Teo; Resident Playwright of The Necessary Stage, Mr Haresh Sharma; Mayor of Central Singapore District, Ms Denise Phua; and former Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party, Mr Low Thia Khiang. 

These outstanding recipients have also achieved excellence in various fields locally and internationally, which has contributed to the betterment and promotion of the arts and social sciences. Typically held annually, the 2021 awards ceremony was postponed to this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye said, “I would like to convey my heartiest congratulations to the five outstanding FASS alumni award recipients. These five individuals have contributed to Singapore in distinctive ways, and their passion, perseverance and pursuit of excellence serve as an inspiration to current and future generations of FASS students. NUS is proud to have them as our alumni, and I hope they will continue to maintain close ties with their alma mater and with FASS. There is much we can do together, to nurture and inspire the next generation of Singaporeans to realise their potential.” 

Professor Lionel Wee, Dean of the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, added, “The recipients of the FASS Distinguished Arts and Social Sciences Alumni Award 2021 have all played pivotal roles both in Singapore and internationally. Be it through the arts, shaping of policies, diplomatic relations or community engagement, our alumni award recipients epitomise the FASS quality of being of service to the wider community. We are extremely proud of their achievements.” 

Recipients of the FASS Distinguished Arts and Social Sciences Alumni Award 2021 

Mr Peter Tan 

Mr Peter Tan graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Japanese Studies from NUS in 1992. He was appointed Singapore’s Ambassador to Japan in September 2019. Prior to this, he served as Deputy Secretary for Southeast Asia and ASEAN in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) from January 2015 to September 2019. Mr Tan was the Singapore Ambassador to the Republic of Korea (concurrently accredited to Mongolia) from February 2011 to January 2015. Since joining the MFA in 1992, he has served in various capacities on issues related to Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, United Nations and Technical Cooperation. Mr Tan was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Silver) in 2008. 

Mrs Josephine Teo 

Minister Josephine Teo graduated with a Bachelor of Social Sciences (Honours) in Economics from NUS in 1991, winning several honours including the Rachel Meyer Book Prize for being the Best Woman Student. She was appointed Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-charge of Smart Nation and Cybersecurity on 15 May 2021. She is also a member of the National Jobs Council and the Future Economy Council, and has been concurrently the Second Minister for Home Affairs since May 2018. Formerly the Minister for Manpower from May 2018 till May 2021, Mrs Teo also previously served in the Prime Minister’s Office as well as the Finance, Transport and Foreign Affairs ministries. A member of Parliament (MP) since 2006, she was formerly Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education and Assistant Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress. 

Mr Haresh Sharma 

Mr Haresh Sharma graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in English Language and English Literature from NUS in 1990. Since becoming Resident Playwright of The Necessary Stage, he has written more than 120 plays which have been staged in over 20 cities. He has also written for National Day Parade as well as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Southeast Asian Games (2015). His play, Off Centre, was the first Singapore play selected by the Ministry of Education as a Literature text for the GCE N- and O-Levels. Mr Sharma is the first non-American to be awarded the prestigious Goldberg Master Playwright by New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2011. In 2014, he was conferred the Southeast Asian Writers Award (Singapore), which recognises and honours literary excellence in the ASEAN region. He was awarded the Cultural Medallion in 2015. 

Ms Denise Phua 

Ms Denise Phua graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Political Science from NUS in 1983. The Mayor of Central Singapore District and MP for Jalan Besar Group Representation Constituency (GRC), she is best known for her advocacy for those at risk of being left behind in Singapore. One of the key architects behind three 5-year Enabling Masterplans for the Disabled in Singapore, she is also the President of the Autism Resource Centre (Singapore) and Chairman of the Autism Association Singapore. She is Vice-Chairman of the Eden School board and supervises the Pathlight School – Singapore’s first autism special school which she co-founded. She is a member of the Government Parliamentary Committees (GPC) for Education and is a member of the GPC for Social and Family Development. 

Mr Low Thia Khiang 

Mr Low Thia Khiang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Chinese Studies from NUS in 1981. He is a Singaporean former politician who served as Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party between 2001 and 2018. First elected as the MP for Hougang Single Member Constituency during the 1991 General Election, he became Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party on 27 May 2001. Mr Low stepped down as the MP for Aljunied GRC prior to the 2020 General Election, making him Singapore’s longest serving opposition MP with 29 years in service. 

Please refer to the Annex for more information on the award recipients.