Recognised for longstanding service to Singapore

The Order of Temasek (With High Distinction) went to NUS Pro-Chancellor Professor S Jayakumar

NUS Pro-Chancellor Professor S Jayakumar headed this year’s National Day Awards, receiving the country’s highest civilian award – the Order of Temasek (With High Distinction) – for his sustained and invaluable contributions to the nation.

University Professor Wang Gungwu was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, while Associate Professor Benjamin Ong, NUS Senior Vice President (Health Education & Resources) and Immediate Past Director of Medical Services at the Ministry of Health, received the Meritorious Service Medal.

Prof Jayakumar’s illustrious public service career spans decades. He was Singapore’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and High Commissioner to Canada from 1971 to 1974. From 1980, he held many portfolios including Minister for Law, Home Affairs, Labour, and Foreign Affairs, as well as Deputy Prime Minister, Senior Minister, and Coordinating Minister for National Security, until retiring from politics in 2011. He is now Senior Legal Advisor to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

In these roles, he has helped the country tackle its most complicated diplomatic issues, defending Singapore’s legal interests while maintaining good relations with other countries.

He had led the team to the International Court of Justice that successfully pleaded Singapore’s case on Pedra Branca in 2007. He also oversaw the agreement for the Malayan Railway to vacate land at Tanjong Pagar, and addressed the transboundary haze problems involving Indonesia.

Prof Jayakumar, who took on the role of NUS Pro-Chancellor on 1 July 2020, has a longstanding relationship with the University.

The NUS Law alumnus graduated top of his cohort in 1963, joined the School as a lecturer in 1964, and was Dean from 1974 to 1980. Prof Jayakumar returned to NUS Law in October 2011 after his retirement from politics. As former Chair of the NUS Law Advisory Council, he helped to enhance the School’s legal education and research. He is also Chair of the International Advisory Panel of the NUS Centre for International Law. Prof Jayakumar received the University’s Eminent Alumni Award in 2009 and the Outstanding Service Award in 2014.

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University Professor Wang Gungwu received the Distinguished Service Order

Professor Wang Gungwu, University Professor and a faculty member of NUS Arts and Social Sciences, was conferred the Distinguished Service Order.

Prof Wang was the founding Chairman of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at NUS, and the former Chairman of the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute and NUS East Asian Institute.

He had played a key role in building up the three institutes and strengthening their research capabilities to foster a strong culture of excellence. Under his leadership, the three institutes have grown into internationally reputable research institutes and think-tanks, strengthening Singapore’s position as an independent base for leading research on China and East Asia, and enhancing research and academic exchanges between Singaporean and overseas scholars.

Prof Wang is widely regarded as one of the world’s top scholars on the study of the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia, and the history of Chinese immigrants in Singapore and Southeast Asia. His publications, lectures and articles have provided policy makers and the public with invaluable insights into the region’s cultural heritage.

The NUS alumnus obtained his Bachelor and Master’s Degrees when the University was known as the University of Malaya in Singapore, before obtaining his PhD at the University of London.

"I have enjoyed all the work I have been able to do and learnt a great deal while doing it. This is an honour I share with my wife Margaret whose deep feelings for Singapore has made my work here all the more satisfying," said Prof Wang on 7 Aug.

Prof Wang’s wife, Mrs Margaret Wang, passed away later that day. The University extends its deepest condolences to Prof Wang and his family.

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Associate Professor Benjamin Ong, NUS Senior Vice President (Health Education & Resources) and Immediate Past Director of Medical Services at the Ministry of Health, was conferred the Meritorious Service Medal (Photo: Singapore Medical Council)

Associate Professor Benjamin Ong, NUS Senior Vice President (Health Education & Resources) and Immediate Past Director of Medical Services at the Ministry of Health, was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.

An alumnus of NUS Medicine, Assoc Prof Ong had been Chief Executive of the National University Health System. He made significant contributions in the areas of electronic health records, patient safety, quality, and care models. He developed the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health and nurtured nursing, medical and allied health professionals.

Assoc Prof Ong then served as Director of Medical Services in the Ministry of Health from 2014 to 2020. He put in place a system to better manage capacity across the public healthcare system, developed roadmaps for the long-term transformation of care models to meet the needs of an ageing population, and enhanced postgraduate medical training. He oversaw the formation and expansion of the Agency for Care Effectiveness, and pushed for treatments that are both clinically and cost effective. During his tenure, the Ministry established regulatory sandboxes to enable new and innovative healthcare models and services.

Assoc Prof Ong’s strong leadership extended to the effective management of disease outbreaks in Singapore, including the Zika virus infection in 2016 and Monkeypox in 2019. He was instrumental in the setting up of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases to strengthen the country’s outbreak prevention, detection and response capabilities. This centre has placed Singapore in a better stead to deal with the current COVID-19 outbreak.

On 1 February 2020, Assoc Prof Ong returned to NUS as Senior Vice President (Health Education & Resources). He continues to practise as a Senior Consultant Neurologist at the National University Hospital.

“I am deeply humbled to be considered worthy of this award. This is a recognition of the collective efforts of the teams that I have been part of,” said Assoc Prof Ong.

“I've greatly benefitted from the unique and enabling environment provided by NUS since I joined as a young doctor and lecturer in 1986. Throughout my career, I have been blessed by wonderful colleagues, mentors and teachers, both at NUS and also at the National University Hospital. This continued even during my time at the Ministry of Health.”

Assoc Prof Ong added that his wife, family and faith have provided him with invaluable support through the years. 

Seven members of the NUS community received the Public Administration Medal (Silver). They are:

  • Associate Professor Lakshminarayanan Samavedham from NUS Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, who also serves as Director at the NUS Institute for Application of Learning Science and Education Technology;
  • Professor Xu Guo-Qin from NUS Chemistry, who is also Director at the NUS (Chongqing) Research Institute;
  • Professor Patrick J Casey, Senior Vice Dean (Research) at the Duke-NUS Medical School;
  • Associate Professor Wu Siew Mei, Director at the NUS Centre for English Language Communication; and
  • Professor Chng Wee Joo from NUS Medicine. He also serves at the National University Health System as Group Director of the Research Office and Director of the National University Cancer Institute, Singapore.
  • Associate Professor Tan Say Beng, Senior Associate Dean at Duke-NUS Medical School. He is also the Group Chief Research Officer at SingHealth, and Executive Director for the National Medical Research Council.
  • Clinical Professor Chan Choong Meng, Senior Associate Dean and Co-Director for the Academic Medicine Education Institute at Duke-NUS Medical School. He is also Group Chief Education Officer at SingHealth. At the Singapore General Hospital, he serves as Director for the Office of Translational Medicine Oversight and Senior Consultant at the Department of Renal Medicine. 

View the full list of members of the NUS community who received National Day Awards this year.