Prominent business leader and community champion Chua Thian Poh receives Honorary Doctor of Letters from NUS

Faculty, staff and proud family members gather to mark the achievements of 11,127 graduates from NUS Class of 2019 

The National University of Singapore (NUS) today conferred an honorary degree, the University’s highest honour, on respected community leader and philanthropist Mr Chua Thian Poh, who is Founder of Ho Bee Group.


Madam Halimah Yacob, President of the Republic of Singapore and NUS Chancellor (right), conferred the Honorary Doctor of Letters on Mr Chua Thian Poh (left), Founder of Ho Bee Group, at the Main Ceremony of NUS Commencement 2019 held on 11 July 2019.

Mr Chua was conferred the Honorary Doctor of Letters by Madam Halimah Yacob, President of the Republic of Singapore and NUS Chancellor, at the Main Ceremony of NUS Commencement 2019, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the community and his advancement of learning and knowledge, which have greatly benefitted Singapore and the wider society. 

About 290 graduates from the NUS School of Design and Environment also received their degrees at the ceremony held today. 

The NUS Class of 2019 comprises 11,127 graduates: 6,663 students will receive Bachelor’s degrees and 4,464 will receive graduate degrees. A total of 24 ceremonies will be held at the NUS University Cultural Centre over a period of eight days, from 11 to 18 July 2019. NUS Commencement 2019 will conclude with the Commencement Dinner, which will be held on Friday, 19 July 2019. 

NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye said, “We are tremendously proud of the achievements of the NUS Class of 2019. Our graduates have worked hard for their degrees and honed their knowledge and skills through learning opportunities that include industry projects, internships as well as entrepreneurial and overseas experiences. As they each chart their paths personally and professionally, I hope that they will always find time to give back to the community that has nurtured them.”

“We are especially proud to recognise Mr Chua Thian Poh’s many outstanding achievements with the conferment of the Honorary Doctor of Letters. Mr Chua has built his success on a secondary school education, determination and sheer hard work. Even then, he’s always made it a priority to give back to the community. His passion for nurturing a spirit of service among the young inspires us all to work even harder to help those in need.”

This year, NUS will be presenting pioneer graduates from the following programmes:

  • Master in International Affairs
  • Master of Science (Food Science and Human Nutrition)

Please refer to the Annex A for more information on these programmes. 

2019 Honorary Doctor of Letters Recipient – Mr Chua Thian Poh

Mr Chua Thian Poh is the Founder of Ho Bee Group. A highly respected philanthropist and a prominent business leader, Mr Chua has donated over S$20 million to the local higher education causes since 2007, in his private capacity and as part of Ho Bee Land’s CSR programme.

Mr Chua’s philanthropic endeavours emphasise “learning by doing”, which aims to create real-world impact by equipping community leaders with effective skills, as well as nurturing a sense of active citizenry. 

He has played an instrumental role in fostering and entrenching community development endeavours at NUS. In 2011, NUS established the Chua Thian Poh Community Leadership Programme, with support from Mr Chua, to groom Singapore’s next generation of community leaders. Under the programme, NUS undergraduates were involved in social research projects which not only gave the students deeper insights into community issues, but also helped provide much-needed research expertise to the social service sector. 

The programme grew in popularity, and in 2017, the Chua Thian Poh Community Leadership Centre was inaugurated as an academic unit within NUS, offering modules on community development that students across faculties can undertake as electives. The Centre enrolls up to 80 students every year. To date, about 400 NUS undergraduates from the programme have worked with over 100 organisations in areas of healthcare, family services, vulnerable communities, and more. In the new academic year starting August 2019, the Centre will be introducing a new Minor in Community Development & Leadership that will be open to all NUS students. A rigorous and comprehensive Minor programme that focuses on developing community leaders will allow NUS students to hone both the intellectual and practical skills needed to facilitate ground-up processes that are essential for understanding community challenges and contribute to better policy-making.

Mr Chua is actively involved in the community and social services, and serves on the boards of several other companies and community organisations. He is the Chairman of Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre, Board of Trustee of Chinese Development Assistance Council and Ren Ci Hospital. He is the Honorary President of Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations and Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry. He is also the Immediate Past President of Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan and Honorary Chairman of Bishan East-Thomson Citizen’s Consultative Committee. 

Mr Chua was awarded the Public Service Star (BBM) in 2004 and Distinguished Service Order (Darjah Utama Bakti Cemerlang) in 2014. He was also appointed Justice of the Peace in 2005. He was conferred the 2006 Businessman of the Year in the Singapore Business Awards jointly organised by The Business Times and DHL. He was conferred The President’s Award for Philanthropy (Individual) in 2012. 

Mr Chua was appointed as Non-Resident Ambassador of Singapore to the Republic of Maldives in August 2015. He was also appointed by the Prime Minister’s Office as a member of Elected Presidency Constitutional Commission in February 2016. He has been a member of the Council of Presidential Advisers since January 2019. 

On receiving the Honorary Degree, Mr Chua said, “I am very privileged and honoured to join the alumni family of this flagship university of Singapore. To me, achieving financial success in life is not everything. It is also important to remain humble and show empathy towards others. Looking back, my years dedicated to community service had certainly been most valuable as I have gained much personal satisfaction and led a more fulfilling life by giving back to our society.”

Mr Chua also thanked NUS for the birthday gift as the Main Commencement Ceremony coincided with his birthday.  “Today is also my 71st birthday. I could not have imagined a better birthday gift than the conferment of this Honorary Doctor of Letters on me,” Mr Chua added. 

Please refer to Annex B for the citation on Mr Chua Thian Poh.