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The role of alumni in making a difference to society

ON THE FASHION CATWALK with Daniel Boey // INTO THE WILD with Bernard Harrison









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22 The social work profession should brace itself in facing challenging times ahead, these challenges are precipitated by changing demographic profiles which to some extent remain unpredictable. ASSOC PROF S VASOO

Associate Professorial Fellow, Department of Social Work


ADVISOR Assoc Prof Victor R Savage (Arts and Social Sciences ’72) EDITOR Karin Yeo (Arts and Social Sciences ’97) PUBLISHING CONSULTANT MediaCorp Pte Ltd




CONTACT US Office of Alumni Relations National University of Singapore

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11 Kent Ridge Drive Singapore 119244 Tel: (65) 6516-5775 Fax: (65) 6777-2065 Email: Website: Facebook:

The AlumNUS Magazine is published quarterly by the NUS Office of Alumni Relations. The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the NUS Office of Alumni Relations or the National University of Singapore. For more information or to read The AlumNUS online, please visit Copyright 2013 by the National University of Singapore. All rights reserved. Printed in Singapore by KHL Printing Co Pte Ltd.




The role of alumni in making a difference to society

ON THE FASHION CATWALK with Daniel Boey // INTO THE WILD with Bernard Harrison Cover JulSep13 V3.indd 1



6/11/13 2:59 PM

ART DIRECTION: Augustine Tan, Neo Aik Sing COVER ILLUSTRATION: Tang Yau Hoong

his July - September 2013 issue of The AlumNUS signifies for the Class of 2013 your initiation as NUS alumni and the Office of Alumni Relations (OAR) is glad to welcome you on board. First, let me congratulate you on your graduation as NUS degree holders. Your commencement ceremony is a culmination of your academic sojourn in NUS and no doubt a momentous endorsement of your personal academic achievement. For most of you, it is also a joyous and proud moment for your family and especially your parents. We join you in expressing your gratitude to your parents for their support, advice, encouragement and help over the years. Secondly, for most of the senior alumni, the term commencement might be alien as you are used to the British term ‘convocation’ when you graduated

– a term signifying a graduate membership to the university. Convocation also undergirds in many ways the religious antecedents of universities that developed out of religious centres and monastic arenas of learning in Europe, hence the semblance of academic gowns to monks’ robes. But there is much symbolism in the term commencement – it signifies a new beginning, the commencement of a journey in life. Finally, your umbilical cord is set free and now you are independent in setting your own agenda in life. Armed with your degree, the sky is the limit for you, the world is yours to discover – you define your goals and command your own destiny. In keeping with your new journey, we have made the central theme in this issue a tribute to our many alumni who devote their careers and spare time to giving, serving and helping the disadvantaged, underprivileged and minority groups in society. They are the real unsung heroes of our alumni community. We hope you can join them by remembering – in your moment of joy – the unfortunate or financially disadvantaged amongst you. You can begin the spirit of giving by making a small contribution to the NUS Alumni Bursary Fund (ABF) of the Alumni Advisory Board. Your small contribution will make it possible for other students to achieve their dreams and reach their goals. Finally, take pride in being an NUS alumnus. You may be an architect, banker, doctor, dentist, engineer, lawyer, teacher, consultant, manager or civil servant, but I hope there will always be a part of you that will remain forever NUS.


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OUTSTANDING RESEARCHER AWARD “Research demands a great deal of curiosity, creativity, focus, discipline and perseverance. To do well, it is important to always stay foolish and stay hungry.”

OUTSTANDING SERVICE AWARD “I have been blessed with the privilege to work alongside, learn from and influence many talented and interesting people.”

Assoc Prof Johan Geertsema

Prof Ooi Beng Chin

Group President and CEO, Neptune Orient Lines Limited (NOL), who previously served on the NUS Board of Trustees

“My approach to teaching consists of two parts: continuous self-development, and in-depth appreciation of what motivates students to learn. Then I use this understanding to design my modules to educate the minds and inspire.”

YOUNG RESEARCHER AWARD “Enjoy everything you do and be happy every day.”

“I try to make the most of each day such that I have as few regrets as possible. Life is fragile and it would be nice to do something meaningful.”

University Scholars Programme

Department of Computer Science School of Computing

Assoc Prof Willie Tan Assoc Prof Johan Geertsema

Eight individuals honoured for contributions to education, research and service. embers of the NUS community and guests gathered at the NUS University Cultural Centre on 26 April 2013, to honour eight illustrious individuals for their contributions to education, research and service at the annual University Awards. NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan congratulated the winners and said: “The achievements and contributions of our Award recipients this evening speak not only of their abilities, but more importantly, of their character and attitude.

OUTSTANDING EDUCATOR AWARD “What is important is that students learn; if technology integrated into the syllabus and class activities can help that process, then I am all for it – but only then.”

First given out in 1997, the NUS University Awards honour the best in education, research and service. It is given out in four categories: • THE OUTSTANDING EDUCATOR AWARD recognises faculty members who have excelled in engaging and inspiring students in their quest for knowledge. • THE OUTSTANDING RESEARCHER AWARD recognises established researchers whose works have impacted and advanced the frontiers of knowledge and positioned the University at the forefront of their areas of expertise. • THE YOUNG RESEARCHER AWARD recognises researchers whose works show promise in extending

Department of Building School of Design and Environment

Assoc Prof Liu Bin

Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Faculty of Engineering

“The discovery of graphene has shown that basic, curiosity-driven research has the potential to not only revolutionise science but also entire industries. It is a great privilege to be part of this exciting adventure, to be able to pursue my passion and to be able to work with my amazingly talented and motivated PhD students towards pushing the frontiers of graphene research even further.”

Prof Ooi Beng Chin

Dr Barbaros Özyilmaz Department of Physics Faculty of Science

Mr Ng Yat Chung

Prof John Wong Eu Li

NUS Vice Provost (Academic Medicine) and Isabel Chan Professor in Medical Sciences

EMERITUS PROFESSOR “I am privileged to have contributed to undergraduate medical and dental education in Singapore. I was able to accomplish what I did because I had the good fortune to be at the right places at the right time. The turning point was when I was appointed Head of NUS’ Department of Anatomy in 1998. This appointment which spanned over a period of 10 years has given me a lot of opportunities to serve the NUS community in the development of medical education and research.” Prof Ling Eng Ang

Department of Anatomy Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine Assoc Prof Willie Tan Assoc Prof Liu Bin

Dr Barbaros Özyilmaz

Mr Ng Yat Chung

the frontiers of knowledge in their respective fields. THE OUTSTANDING SERVICE AWARD

recognises individuals who have distinguished themselves through their sustained contributions in serving the University and society. THE TITLE OF EMERITUS PROFESSOR

is conferred in recognition of individuals with distinguished scholarship and outstanding service to the University.


Prof John Wong Eu Li

Prof Ling Eng Ang




Prof Tan Chorh Chuan, NUS President

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NUS IS TOP IN ASIA NUS is best performing university in Asia according to 2013 QS World University Rankings by Subject. THE UNIVERSITY HAS secured the eighth position among universities world-wide in this subject ranking, with 12 subjects being ranked top 10. These subjects are namely Statistics, Mathematics, Material Sciences, Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Communication and Media Studies, Geography, Politics and International Studies, Modern Languages, Computer Science and Information Systems and Engineering (mechanical, aeronautical, manufacturing, electrical and electronic, chemical). Professor Tan Eng Chye, NUS Deputy President (Academic Affairs) and Provost said: “This is a strong international recognition of NUS’ strengths in humanities and languages, engineering and technology,


sciences, medicine and social sciences.” He noted that the rankings served as an acknowledgement of the exceptional work carried out by faculty and staff in education and research. NUS was among the world’s top 20 in nine other subjects, namely Chemistry, Biological Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Economics, English Language and Literature, Sociology Engineering (civil & structural), and Medicine. The QS World University Rankings by Subject is based on criteria including academic reputation, employer reputation and research citations. A total of 2,858 universities were evaluated and 678 institutions were ranked.

Prof Tan Eng Chye, NUS Deputy President (Academic Affairs) and Provost


ABOVE AND FAR RIGHT Dr Tan touring the facilities at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.



IN HIS CAPACITY as NUS Chancellor, the President of Singapore, Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam paid his first visit to the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (YLLSoM) on 15 May 2013, to gain an insight into NUS’ medical education and research. Some of the University’s senior administrators whom Dr Tan met included Professor Tan Eng Chye, NUS

Main illustration: Shutterstock

Dr Tony Tan gains insight.

Deputy President (Academic Affairs) and Provost; Associate Professor Benjamin Ong, NUS Senior Vice President (Health Affairs); Professor John Wong, NUS Vice Provost (Academic Medicine) and Isabel Chan Professor in Medical Sciences; and Associate Professor Yeoh Khay Guan, Dean of the YLLSoM. Dr Tan later toured the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore, a state-of-the-art university research

institute carrying out a multifaceted and coordinated approach to cancer research. He also paid a visit to the Centre for Healthcare Simulation, one of the region’s biggest and most comprehensive simulation centres for clinical education and practice, housed at the Centre for Translational Medicine. The visit rounded off with students, staff and faculty members enjoying an engaging tea session with Dr Tan.

NUS TOP IN WORLD WATER RESEARCH Academic also lauded for his work. A SURVEY BY LUX RESEARCH, a company providing strategic advice and intelligence for emerging technologies, has placed the University as first in the world’s ranking of water research institutes. NUS also emerged top globally, in areas of desalination, reuse and membranes. More than 400 top universities and institutes in the water research space and the impact of their key papers were examined in the survey. The survey company also profiled and interviewed leading experts around the globe to determine best practices for partnering with academic research over the next 15 years. Singapore’s highly focused research and strong government funding contributed to the country’s position as a world leader. Brent Giles, Senior Analyst of Lux Research and lead author of the report Top Academics and Institutions in Water Research 2013, said: “As water efficiency becomes a priority for countries around the world, well-funded universities and institutes NUS is first in are proliferating, doing Lux Research’s rankings of research that could water research transform the water institutes in the industry.” world, while Prof The report also Chung (above) has been named named Professor Neal a top academic Chung Tai-Shung from in global water the NUS Department research. of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering as one of the leading water researchers in the world. Prof Chung’s work on improving the performance of polymeric membranes for use in energy, water and medical applications, is complemented by his rich industry experience. His team has successfully developed some of the world’s best-performing membranes for forward osmosis and membrane distillation.

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A MILLION DOLLARS TO ADVANCE BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES Gift will support up to 150 undergraduate students in research, and fund scholarships for 50 graduate students.

IARU PRESIDENTS’ MEETING AT NUS Delegates also toured U-Town and met alumni from their universities. NUS HOSTED MORE THAN 25 Presidents, Vice-Chancellors and senior officials from the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU) – ten of the world’s leading research institutions – on 8 and 9 April 2013. Led by the newly elected IARU Chairman, ETH Zurich President Professor Ralph Eichler who succeeded NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan* on 1 January 2013, the meeting deliberated on higher education developments as well as strategic directions for new and ongoing IARU initiatives. NUS Deputy President (Academic Affairs) and Provost Professor Tan Eng Chye delivered a presentation on Technology Enhanced Learning, speaking on how technology can be harnessed to enhance pedagogy. Citing the Integrated Virtual Learning Environment (IVLE) as an early example of a learning management system at NUS in the mid-1990s to facilitate and supplement teaching, Prof Tan shared that the IVLE has evolved to include innovative applications, such as NUS Planner, a timetable builder, and IVLE Metro, a Windows Phone 7 version of IVLE. NUS has set aside a S$5 million “Learning Innovation Fund – Technology” to support initiatives at NUS Schools and Faculties; targeted 6


re-design of courses with large class sizes; and NUS start-ups with novel educational products that can enhance learning at NUS. Professor Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, closed the first day’s meeting with an engaging presentation on “The Changing Position and Role of Asia in the World – Key Implications for Higher Education”. In Prof Tan Chorh Chuan, NUS President, addressing his talk, Prof Mahbubani delegates at the IARU Presidents’ Meeting at NUS. called for universities to take on the responsibility of promoting greater understanding between the East and West as well as encouraging multilateralism and the new global ethic. Professor Pericles Lewis, President of the NUS-Yale College, presented an overview of Yale-NUS College, Singapore’s first liberal arts college, which will admit its inaugural batch of students in August 2013. comes with residential colleges, teachVice Provost (Student Life) ing and study clusters and recreaProfessor Tan Tai Yong conducted a tional spaces to provide NUS students tour of University Town. Delegates with an integrated living and learning were shown the mix of facilities within experience. the 19-hectare educational hub which * Prof Tan was IARU Chair from April 2009 to December 2012.

IARU ALUMNI NETWORKING In conjunction with the IARU President’s Meeting, an IARU Alumni Networking session was held on the evening of 8 April 2013. Organised by the NUS Office of Alumni Relations (OAR), the event provided alumni from the 10 IARU-member universities the rare opportunity to meet with the Presidents, Vice-Chancellors and senior officials of their alma mater as well as to network with fellow IARU alumni. Director of OAR, Associate Professor Victor R Savage, opened the session with a welcome message, which led onto a meet-and-greet session with the Presidents of the IARU member universities. Over 120 alumni attended the session. IARU is an alliance made up of the following 10 research universities: The Australian National University, ETH Zurich, National University of Singapore, Peking University, University of California, Berkeley, University of Cambridge, University of Copenhagen, University of Oxford, The University of Tokyo and Yale University.

THE DEPARTMENT OF BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES (DBS) of the Faculty of Science at NUS has received a gift of S$1 million. The generous gift comes from Singapore Exchange Catalistlisted developer SingHaiyi Group Limited and its parent company, privately-held Haiyi Holdings Pte Ltd. The donation will attract the prevailing matching grant from the Singapore Government. Mr Neil Bush, a Non-Executive Director and Non-Executive Chairman of SingHaiyi, said: “The National University of Singapore is recognised as a leading academic institution globally. This gift — our first to NUS — will help advance life sciences research which can have positive far-reaching consequences beyond Singapore.” The well-known Texasbased businessman is the son and

brother to two former US Presidents. The donation will support up to 150 undergraduate students in DBS in their research, and fund scholarships for some 50 graduate students. NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan thanked the group and Mr Bush for their generous contribution. “We will make sure that the gift will make a huge impact for the students,” he said. Department Head Professor Paul Matsudaira gave an overview of the department, highlighting the vibrant education students at DBS enjoy, ranging from contributing to publications to research endeavours. Following the cheque presentation, Mr Bush met students from the department where they had an engaging session discussing various topics in education and research.

Prof Tan (left) with Mr Bush during the cheque presentation.

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Chef Cameron Stauch demostrates his culinary expertise, to the delight of CFF audience.

THE CANADIAN FILM FORUM Five-night event featured a diverse range of Canadian cinematic delights. FOR THE THIRD YEAR RUNNING, the High Commission of Canada and the NUS Office of Alumni Relations (OAR) came together to showcase the very best of Canadian cinema to the NUS community. From 13 to 18 April 2013, The Canadian Film Forum (CFF) 2013 introduced a diverse range of Canadian cinematic delights. Kicking off the forum was a light-hearted comedy titled Cooking with Stella that loosely chronicles the experiences of a chef, Cameron Stauch, in New Delhi. Adding flavour to the opening night, chef Stauch appeared in person to give a cooking demonstration. Screenings for the following nights included 2012 Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film Monsieur Lazhar, 1997 Academy Award nominee for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay 8


The Sweet Hereafter, A Night of Animation featuring 11 animated short films and Water, the third and final instalment in Deepa Mehta’s Elements Trilogy. Her Excellency, Ms Heather Grant, High Commissioner of Canada to Singapore, shared with the audience in her welcome address that the selection of films for CFF 2013 continues the tradition of previous CFFs, in seeking to showcase the diverse aspects of Canada’s century-old film industry. “In selecting our films, we also decided to span several decades to illustrate how cinema adapts as audience tastes shift, and technological innovations change what is possible,” said Ms Grant, making a reference to CFF 2013’s choice of screening animation shorts. In his welcome speech, Associate Professor Victor R Savage, Director of OAR said, “The Canadian Film Forum provides three underlying features. Firstly it underscores OAR’s objectives in providing entertainment for the family. Secondly, the film forum


revitalises the cultural vibrancy in NUS for students, faculty and alumni. Thirdly, this film forum is an endorsement of [the] good relationships between the Canadian High Commission and OAR.” CFF 2013 opened to overwhelming response, with approximately 660 guests registering for the

opening night movie screening alone and a total attendance of 1,220 for the five-night film forum. Canadian global icon Blackberry offered its continual support, in the form of a generous S$10,000 sponsorship for the event and five Blackberry Bold 9900 smart phones for one lucky winner per night.

HEALTHCARE // Singapore ranks sixth in the world in healthcare outcomes, yet spends proportionally less on healthcare than any other high income country. Singapore also achieves its results at less than one-fourth the cost of healthcare in the United States and about half that of Western European countries. This is the story of the Singapore healthcare system: how it works, how it is financed, its history, where it is going, and what lessons it may hold for national health systems around the world. Affordable Excellence is the first book to set out a comprehensive system-level description of healthcare in Singapore, with a view to understanding what can be learned from its unique system design and development path.

OUR HERITAGE IN NATURE Seminar was attended by participants from various backgrounds.

A HALF-DAY SEMINAR TITLED ‘Our Heritage in Nature’ was held at the Shaw Foundation Alumni House on 11 May 2013. Co-organised by the Master of Science (Environmental Management) Programme (MEM) Alumni group and Nature Society (Singapore), the seminar saw a turnout of over 80 participants from various backgrounds. Mr Leong Kwok Peng of Nature Society (Singapore) and Mr N Sivasothi of NUS presented the topics ‘From Railway Track to Green Corridor’ and ‘Our Coastal Natural Heritage in Singapore - Diversity, Impacts and Challenges’ respectively. Mr Leong shared how the impressive green corridor proposal along the former

railway land was conceptualised and its subsequent activities. Mr Siva gave an interesting account on the wonders of Singapore’s marine biodiversity, as well as the stunning threats to marine lives caused by human activities. A special guest speaker Mr Tay Kheng Soon shared his idea on an eco-education project at Pulau Ketam, an islet by Pulau Ubin. Following the speeches, an interactive exchange in the form of a Q & A session took place among audience and speakers.

William A Haseltine is President and Founder of ACCESS Health International, and also President of the William A Haseltine Foundation for Medical Sciences and the Arts. He was a Professor at Harvard Medical School and was the Founder and CEO of Human Genome Sciences.

As a publisher of journals and books with a focus on Asia-related social sciences and humanities, NUS Press is committed to enhancing the impact and relevance of scholarly communications in the region. JUL–SEP 2013




inside out The social work industry in Singapore was born out of necessity as the nation grew, and with it the Department of Social Work at NUS. The AlumNUS uncovers its history and talks to alumni who are changing society, one person at a time. BY THERESA TAN



our society,” as stated in an official statement from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Mr Chan also announced in 2012 that MSF has plans to set up 10 more Family Service Centres (FSCs) by 2015, making it a total of 51 centres. With more FSCs, comes the need for more social workers. With the need for more social workers, comes the need for training and experience. THE BIRTH OF SOCIAL WORK EDUCATION To look at the start of social work in Singapore would require a study of the colonial, post-war years of the late 1940s. The development of Singapore towards independence as a nation was characterised as much by social and economic challenges as it was by political consciousness. It was from the then-University of Malaya’s Economics Department that the NUS Social Work Department of today was born. The Economics Department had worked with Singapore’s Social Welfare Department to come up with the 1947 Social Survey. This survey served to reveal the social problems of that time. The survey committee met with the director of the London School of Economics (LSE), sociologist Sir Alexander Carr-Saunders, who highlighted the need for social work training to be established in Singapore. Hence a two-year diploma programme, based on the LSE model, was started as a unit in the Economics Department. In 1952, the first intake of 30 students was admitted. Mrs Ann Wee, 87, is regarded as the 'founding mother of social work' in Singapore. The Englishwoman had come to Singapore in 1950 to marry her fiancé, lawyer H L Wee; both were Cambridge undergraduates when they met. After

four years as a teacher, Mrs Wee joined the Social Welfare Department – located at the site “where the Family Court is now”, she points out – as a training officer in charge of counselling and advice. Part of her job was to visit families in their homes. In 1956, after three years of being parked under the Department of Economics, the Department of Social Studies was established with Ms Jean Robertson, a social work trained academic from New Zealand, as head. Mrs Wee joined the Department in 1957. The rationale for a two-year Diploma programme was that many of those who had already been working in social welfare without training would have found it onerous to undergo four years of university. Also, the Department wanted to minimise the number of young people who would not continue in the profession after they graduated. “So you had to be a graduate or 24 years old with the appropriate working experience [to study for the diploma],” says Mrs Wee. In 1960, the University of Malaya became the University of Singapore. A degree programme for Social Work was introduced in 1966. In 1967, after Ms Robertson left for the University of Hong Kong and her

The family unit is, and should rightfully remain, the fundamental building block of our society. PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG

Illustrations by Tang Yau Hoong


he need for more social workers in Singapore was a dire one three years ago. The then-Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) announced in 2010 that the 600 social workers Singapore had at the time was not sufficient in meeting the growing demand for social services. It estimated a shortfall of 60 social workers yearly for five years. In February 2012, Mr Chan Chun Sing, the ministry’s Acting Minister noted that there was still a shortage of 200 social workers. Today, that shortfall appears to be met. As of 15 May 2013, according to the Singapore Association of Social Workers, there are 864 registered social workers in Singapore, and 183 registered social workers (provisional), bringing the total number to 1,047. There are another 355 registered social service practitioners. The immediate need for more social workers may be sated for now, but the numbers still show that there is only one social worker for every 5,300 people in Singapore. The other First World nation in the region, Hong Kong, has 17,609 registered social workers for a population of seven million – making it one social worker for every 397 people. Singapore, with its ageing population, declining birthrate and increasingly complex social issues – such as caring for the disabled and meeting the needs of new communities – faces a need to step up on its social services. “The social work profession should brace itself in facing challenging times ahead,” says Associate Professor S Vasoo, Associate Professorial Fellow at the Department of Social Work at the National University of Singapore (NUS). “These challenges are precipitated by changing demographic profiles which to some extent remain unpredictable. At the same time, the expectations and demands of various people are changing.” Since independence in 1965, better housing, security, health, education, environment and employment opportunities have been achieved because of good political leadership. But while this is the backbone for the economic and social progress which Singapore has been able to make, it is necessary, says Assoc Prof Vasoo, “to examine some social and economic indicators which showed the positive outcomes of social and economic policy objectives in the last 10 years, and the social work profession has to be sensitive to the trends in social changes confronting Singapore.” The creation of the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) in late 2012 underscores Assoc Prof Vasoo’s point. Its mandate is to “focus on building strong families, developing our social services and looking after those in need of social support…The family unit is, and should rightfully remain, the fundamental building block of

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PREPARING FOR NEW SOCIAL CHALLENGES The Department of Social Work at NUS has been renamed a number of times. In 1966, when the first undergraduate degree in social work was offered, it was the Department of Applied Social Studies. In 1971, when Assoc Prof S Vasoo joined as a senior tutor, it was known as the Department of Social Work and Social Studies. In 1986, when he took over from Mrs Wee as head of department, Psychology was introduced as a discipline and subsumed under Social Work, hence the department was renamed the Department of Social Work and

Psychology, and finally in 2006, it returned to being the Department of Social Work, with Psychology now being a separate department. “One cannot predict what future events can result in another change of name but should such a situation arise, it would suggest that social work can respond to human development and change within the context of Singapore,” wrote Assoc Prof Vasoo in Ebb And Flow: 60 Years Of Social Work Education In Singapore, a book that was published in 2012 to commemorate the department’s six decades of existence. And that appears to be the nature of the department: it constantly adapts, changes, adds and subtracts to respond to what is currently happening in society and where its needs lie. Assoc Prof Vasoo, a Member of Parliament from 1984 to 1991, Deputy Director for the Singapore Council of Social Services from 1973 to 1979, and Director of the National Council of Social Services (NCSS) from 1984 to 1986, has been instrumental in putting in place some of the pillars of social work in Singapore. These include establishing the Ang Mo Kio Social Service Centre, Singapore’s first FSC, in the early ’70s as a pioneering project to deliver help to families in their own neighbourhood. Today, there are 41 FSCs across Singapore. His 50 years in teaching social work and working in the social service sector enables him to diagnose social challenges and propose solutions, whether in academia, in the field or in policy making. He notes that social workers need to increase in training, in number, in capacity and in skills to rope in the community to solve social problems. “In order that social workers can continue to play an effective role, it is important for them to become more aware of internal and external factors which affect the efficiency and effectiveness of social service and community organisations in which they are involved,” he explains. “The identifications of a number of factors such as manpower, facilities, funding resources, leadership and other related organisational issues and the manner in which these areas are managed, will determine whether the profession will make meaningful contributions.” He makes the point that current curriculum helps social workers to handle interpersonal, client-centred situations, but not their client’s environment. “As a consequence, social workers are perceived by resource holders to be more suited for front-line and middle management responsibilities. [This] does narrow the opportunities of social workers to influence decisions which have impact on policies. “It will be important and timely for the training of social workers to be centered in preparing them for middle level and top management as there is a growing demand for such key levels of staffing in the social services.”

Mrs Ann Wee’s fight for the discipline set the foundation for further developments to happen.

It will be important and timely for the training of social workers to be centered in preparing them for middle level and top management. ASSOC PROF S VASOO, ASSOCIATE PROFESSORIAL FELLOW

With Singapore facing rapid changes, there is a need for social workers to recognise three important factors and to take steps to increase their competency, says Assoc Prof Vasoo. “Firstly, social workers must be able to visualise changes in the social and human environment [and understand] the demands in our environment. Secondly, we must constantly upgrade our skills, and thirdly, there is a need to adopt more critical thinking. This process involves the examination of issues with new perspective, the challenging of assumptions of our intervention plans and finding helping strategies to reach out to people who need to strengthen their support networks.”

Photos courtesy of NUS; Illustration: Getty Images

replacement decided not to take up the offer, Mrs Wee decided to apply for the position. She was appointed head of Social Work, a post she held from 1967 to 1986. Mrs Wee’s passionate pursuit during her years as Head was to establish an Honours year for the degree in Social Work. She faced some resistance from Vice-Chancellor then, Dr Toh Chin Chye. “Social workers, in his view, should not quality for the higher salary expectations of Honours Degree holder, as this would stress the resources of the organisations that employ them,” she explains. But Mrs Wee and the department staff held a different view: without Honours, social workers would not only earn substantially less than other Honours graduates, they would also have no access to policymaking, where their on-the-ground experience would be extremely valuable. It was only in 1985 that the Social Work Department started offering a fourth year in Honours. Mrs Wee’s fight for the discipline set the foundation for further developments to happen. Today, the Social Work Department in NUS also offers Masters and PhD degree programmes as well as a Graduate Diploma course for non-social work graduates to pursue a social work career. Mrs Wee, who served as an advisor to the Juvenile Courts for 40 years ending in 2009, continues to contribute to the Social Work Department as an Associate Professorial Fellow.

A PARTNER WITH THE COMMUNITY Today, the challenge of educating the current generations of NUS social work undergraduates falls on the shoulders of Dr Rosaleen Ow, who took over the helm after Associate Professor of Psychology Chua Fook Kee served as head of department from 2005 to 2008. “[In the last six years as head of department] I have seen many new initiatives from the government and non-government organisations in the provision of social and health services,” she wrote in the 60th anniversary book. “Social workers, who are part of the multi-disciplinary teams that deliver these services, also received much needed public mandate for their work.” Changes to the social work industry included salary revisions in 2007 and 2010, sabbatical leave and a professional and leadership scheme were set up in 2008. Since 2009, the government through NCSS has

set up an accreditation system for social workers, and increased funding for training. A public campaign was mounted in 2012 to encourage Singaporeans to enter the industry, even as a mid-career choice. Ms Ang Bee Lian, one of the Department’s most recognised alumnus, is the CEO of NCSS. She began her career as a social worker in 1977. She names three significant changes in social work over the last three decades. “[The top one] is the recognition of social work as a profession and as a career that some do and would consciously opt for. When we first joined the service, we joined as welfare officers. No parent would today allow their graduate son or daughter to be called a welfare officer. “From a personal perspective, the change took greatest significance in the government when then-Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong made reference to social workers in one of his National Day Rally speeches. That I thought marked the rise in recognition of what social workers do…” Much training goes into social workers’ ability to build professional relationships with their clients. “[It is] their main tool for engagement, to bring about and foster sustainable change.” Echoing Dr Ow, Ms Ang lists, as the second significant change, the support for advanced training in social work and recognition of the contribution of social work in multi-disciplinary thought leadership. Previously, it was believed that social work practice was culture-bound and hence, overseas training would not be fruitful. But this has since changed. The third change, notes Ms Ang, is in the profile of social work representation in various committees. “The part that social work plays today in policy formulation and implementation, in mapping out and delivering social services and helping to move social legislation to prevent and combat social ills and protect and care for the vulnerable members of our society is now almost integral in any discussion of social issues.” NUS’ Department of Social Work today is an instrumental part of the coordinated effort by key organisations to meet social challenges faced by the elderly, persons with disabilities and families at risk. As Dr Ow wrote, “On-going consultation and collaboration with the [MSF], the Ministry of Health, NCSS and key practitioners from the field help to bring the community into the classroom and enables social work education to create a better impact in contributing to the process of nation-building.” JUL–SEP 2013




What are some Ms Ang has been CEO of the National Council of Social memories you have Services (NCSS) since 2007, following a 30-year career in of being a social MCYS where she was involved in policy-making as well as work undergraduate? operations. She was awarded the Outstanding Social Worker I never forgot my Award in 2000 and the Public Administration Medal (Silver) challenge to one in 2002. NCSS, which began in 1958 as the Singapore of my social work Council of Social Services, is Singapore’s national coordilecturers who nating body for Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs). infused us with lots of readings about worlds apart, poverty and the tensions expelled. I had spoken of the haves and the have-nots. I recall to the principal of the asking him one day, “Why make vocational school, who people more aware of their circumwas prepared to take in stances only to be unhappier? How the boy. I had had several responsible are we when we educate rounds of discussions with and inform when there are no soluthe boy and his parents, tions or options?” The best memory I to influence them into have of our lessons were the commuunderstanding how nity lab where we walked a commuimportant it was for him nity, kept notes of what its resources to have another shot and were, and what made it a community. go to vocational school to learn a skill. I had bought Tell us about your early days as a the school textbooks and social worker. uniforms with donated Being passionate and too eager to see funds. But on the day itself, how I could apply what I learned in the boy got cold feet and social work, I gave up a place in the failed to show up. Honours class to pursue social work I had under-estimated practice in child protection service. I his anxiety and should started as a welfare officer in 1977 and have accompanied him to my first assignments included suitschool on the first day. It took another ability reports for adopting children, two weeks of counselling and mending investigation of child abuse and the of fences to get him enrolled in school. supervision of girls in moral danger. The lesson I learned very early in my I could not have asked for a more career was about supporting people till challenging start! they cross the finishing line. Even the One of my cases was a 13-yearmost beautiful-sounding plans come old boy who had been repeatedly to naught if you miss out on small operational details.

to meet needs. The role of the State is to ensure that there is space for VWOs to pilot and respond to needs at the ground and nurture that spirit of experimentation. The State also has a responsibility to resource service delivery. There will always be a tension and hopefully a healthy one as the role of the State is usually that of resource gatekeeper and resource allocator. When we acknowledge that we are serving the same objective of preventing social ills and meeting social needs, there are opportunities for collaboration and respectful partnership. Social issues and problems are always better solved by a shared responsibility and a negotiated partnership. This is where we need a lot of creativity.

The role of social workers evolved from handling more single causative type of social problems in the earlier years to more multi-causal type of problems over the decades.

MR S R NATHAN Former President of Singapore University of Malaya '54

MR NGIAM TEE LIANG, BBM, PBM Associate Professorial Fellow, NUS Dept of Social Work; Former Nominated Member of Parliament University of Singapore, Arts and Social Sciences '71

MR DESMOND CHIN KIM THAM Deputy Director of Prisons/Chief of Staff, Singapore Prison Service NUS, Arts and Social Sciences '89

DR MOHAMAD MALIKI BIN OSMAN Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of National Development NUS, Arts and Social Sciences '90



although these were at their naissance stage. The ’90s saw the growth of social services and the presence of social workers helping with complex familial problems. The role of social workers evolved from handling more single causative type of social problems in the earlier years to more multi-causal type of problems over the decades. The issues are now more complex and less amenable to just having money thrown at them. Social workers now require creativity in problem-solving as each problem is set against a unique set of difficulties in a family with or without an extended family network for the social worker to engage and mobilise. Social workers have also been instrumental in urging greater acceptance by society of those with disability and a history of offending. Today, we are beginning to see the attitudinal shift in these areas. How can the government help VWOs help the community? Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWO) are a manifestation of the community spirit and resources that can be mobilised

Photos by Steve Zhu

SOME ALUMNI OF NOTE Department of Social Work

How has the role of social workers evolved over the decades? It has evolved both in response to the emerging social issues and also their place in social interventions. The social workers in the ’60s and there were fewer of them then, were mostly addressing poverty and hygiene-related issues and those posed by rapid industrialisation. The ’70s saw the beginning of more family-related issues and the emergence of social work services dedicated to specific social problems such as the rehabilitation of offenders and drug addicts. The ’80s saw more focused services for those with disability

What is your social work wishlist? Three wishes going forward: one, to see investment of resources to engage younger generation to embark on social work as a career of choice. Two, to foster leaders in social administration and clinical practice as part of building thought leadership and specialisations in social work. And three, to raise the image of the social sector and its professionals where social workers are a key profession. What do you foresee Singapore is going to need in terms of social services in the next 10, 20, 50 years? The demand for social services will grow due to forces such as an ageing population, smaller family sizes, increasing economic volatility and rising public expectations. The strains on relationships will be there and with people living much longer, we will over time deal with up to four-generational relationships. It is hard to predict the future, but if one takes a more optimistic view of our ability to respond and harvest the potential of infocomm technology and other media, and reorganise the way work life balance can be improved, we can cope if we have more social support. When technology facilitates information flow, data sharing and integrated service delivery, we will have a more citizen-centric response to help us to cope. Also, service planning and provision can be improved when those trained to work with their discipline join their respective professions. (Currently, not all social work graduates enter into social services.).


Mr Wham, 32, is the founder of the blog, Workfair Singapore, which champions the labour rights of workers. He began his career with the Humanitarian Organisation for Migrant Economics (HOME), which helps migrant workers in trouble.

Why did you choose to study Social Work? My interest started in 1995 when I was 16, in secondary school. I had just read Animal Liberation by Peter Singer, a seminal text of the animal rights movement. I felt that social issues and social injustice were things which were important enough to care about. This was the mid to late 1990s and there was a universe of ideas out there in the Internet for me to explore and I became interested in race, class and gender issues. When I was in National Service, I met men my age who were from low income families and they went AWOL because they had to work to pay the family debt; it heightened my awareness of the impact poverty had on individuals. These were the things that happened in my life which shaped my decision to study social work.

Is the experience of working as a social worker very different from what you learned in NUS? Yes. We did not discuss issues affecting migrant workers at all, nor were there any critical discussions on issues affecting minorities or marginalised groups in Singapore. But I was glad I elected to do Honours because the process of writing a research thesis was very helpful as I was later involved in research-based advocacy for HOME. The inter-personal skills that I learnt in some of the modules were also helpful in terms of how I dealt with difficult employers, recruitment agents and distressed workers. What NUS did not teach me – and which I felt was sorely needed after I joined HOME – was a rights-based approach to social work. Advocacy was also a method that I was not taught, and I had to learn it by myself because the situation of the migrant workers in Singapore made it necessary for someone to be a voice for, and with the workers. As HOME was a new organisation then, and there were so few of us involved in the work, I had to learn how to do everything on my own, from project management, and financial management, to fund raising, networking, and policy analysis. What do you feel can be improved in the social work industry here? Ideally, social work would be comprehensive in its approach to social problems. The industry would be diverse. There would be social workers who are effective community organisers, as well as those who are advocates, and opinion leaders. There would also be good counsellors, therapists, researchers and policy analysts. We would be able to make connections between the personal and the political. I think what we really need is a union of social workers with progressive politics and a more progressive approach.

I think what we really need is a union of social workers with progressive politics and a more progressive approach.

JUL–SEP 2013



Ivan Woo

Chua Wei Bin



Mr Chua, 34, is the Centre Head for Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centres’ (AMKFSC) Cheng San branch. He also holds a Master’s degree in Family and Systemic Psychotherapy from Middlesex University. He was presented the award of Most Promising Social Worker in 2009.

How has being an NUS social work graduate helped you in your career? It has helped me to be more rigorous in my thinking, and sharpened my critical thinking skills. It was my NUS Social Work education that invited me to take a more macro and holistic perspective towards issues that our clients face, and to be able to appreciate the complexities involved in thinking and creating change. What sort of people come to the FSC for help? The bulk of the clients who come and seek help from the family service centres are individuals and families who have been left behind as Singapore progresses economically. Apart from their financial problems, these families and individuals usually also face a hosts of other challenges like chronic health issues, mental health and emotional well-being issues, relationship conflicts and children having behavioral problems. What kinds of challenges do you face as a leader? First would be juggling the multiple roles that I play. I am a caseworker and a supervisor. I also oversee the supervision done by my colleagues. In addition to that, I have administrative and managerial duties as well. Motivating my colleagues is another challenge. In the social service sector, we have fewer monetary resources to motivate with. Hence there is a greater need to ensure a shared vision and purpose in doing the work we do. I believe as 16


an agency, the AMKFSC is doing very well in attracting people and retaining them. However, staff retention will always be a key tension as there is the lure of higher civil service pay and a more structured working environment as people seek to settle down and have families.

What challenges does the social service sector face? There is a trend for government agencies to be more responsive and more attuned to the needs of the citizenry. This sometimes places additional stress on social workers on the ground as feedback and updates about cases are being sought after. The need to manage expectations and complaints is also becoming more and more common. There are many 'uncharted territories' in the sector. We are MOHAMED FAREEZ currently relying on numerous imperfect solutions. For example, there is very little support for families with adult children who have intellectual disabilities or mental health concerns. In

a space-limited country we cannot afford to keep opening agency after agency at void decks. While solutions are still being created, we continue to face a lack of resources to manage or support families that come to seek help. One group that needs help are people with compounded issues, for example, someone who has diabetes, coupled with depression, in his 50s, living alone. They are hard to serve; there are not many existing resources for them.

having regular networking events and checking in with me during the course of study. There were also opportunities to interact with social service professionals in the field – that supported my knowledge and skills during my studies.

It is beyond a job for me... social work is a part of me, and the values I adhere to in social work, are in fact the values I stick to in my life.

What is your view of the social work landscape in Singapore? There is a strong need for social workers to be more proactive and to take charge. I wonder sometimes if we social workers have applied our understanding of 'advocacy' wrongly to just 'complaining and making noise' at the government. As social workers on the ground, we have a keen understanding of what the problem is and what arrangements or solutions would best solve it. Hence, I believe in addressing the issues that seem to recur, and as problems start to be solved, we have greater leverage to advocate for greater social change.


Mr Mohamed Fareez Mohamed Fahry, 32, is Deputy Head at AMKFSC, supporting the Centre Head. In 2011, he received the award for Most Promising Social Worker.

During your NUS years, you were an NCSS scholar. Please tell us about that. Coming from a low-income single parent family, paying for school fees was a big responsibility for me. Prior to the award, I had to work part time to supplement my schooling needs. I was blessed to have done relatively well in my first year of university, qualifying me for a scholarship in Social Work. It enabled me to focus on my education, while exposing myself to social service organisations through internships and voluntary engagements. As a scholar, I felt supported through NCSS’s initiatives of

Photos by Steve Zhu and Roy Lim

You have been with AMKFSC since 2006. What inspires you to stay? Firstly, it would have to be seeing my clients, and experiencing their stories of success and resilience amidst adversity. Whenever I see clients moving from a disadvantaged state into a situation of stability, I feel heartened by the role of social work in the community. I have also learnt that as social workers, we do not 'rescue' our clients, but instead work collaboratively with them to achieve the change that they hope for. Everyone has their strengths, and as social workers, we are tasked towards identifying their strengths. Also, when we do not accept labels given by others as the truth, we can always be hopeful that our clients transcend these labels. Secondly, it is the ability to interact and strategise with the organism that we call the Community: the grassroots, informal interest groups, neighbours, shopkeepers, community stakeholders, etc. This strategising keeps me on my feet, thinking how to make the community a better place. It is both mentally and spiritually stimulating. Finally, it is the people at my work place. I have bosses who support me and allow me to have autonomy in driving programmes in the community. And my peers whom I consider my family – we share fun and challenging times as a team.

Mr Woo, 35, is a senior medical social worker (MSW) at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH). He was the 2012 recipient of the Most Promising Social Worker Award, and in 2008 received the prestigious Lee Ka Shing Prize at the University of Hong Kong. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Social Work; his thesis is on bereaved spouses with dependent children.

Please tell us about your career as a medical social worker. I graduated in 2003, the year SARS happened (the SARS epidemic claimed the lives of a number of hospital workers). [After three months at a FSC] SARS ended and I became a medical social worker at TTSH for two years. I call my career a “tour of duty”. In 2005 I went to pursue a Master of Philosophy at the Department of Social Work and Social Administration, University of Hong Kong. That gave me an international perspective of social work. When I came back, I worked at Johns Hopkins as an MSW, which gave me insight into private practice. Then I joined the Lien Centre for Palliative Care, where I got to view things from the perspective of a policy maker. I rejoined TTSH as a Senior MSW in its Department of Care and Counselling, and now my work involves building up young social workers. It is my way of thanking and contributing to TTSH.

Social workers can play a key role in educating our younger generation and helping them develop 'heartware'.

Do you foresee yourself staying in social work all your life? Currently, I do see myself in social work my entire life. It is beyond a job for me; in fact, social work is a part of me, and the values I adhere to in social work, are in fact the values I stick to in my life.

What sort of clients do your social workers and MSWs see? TTSH is a restructured or public hospital, so our patients are mostly subsidized Class patients. Our caseload is quite heavy. Our department has 70 MSWs altogether. The clients we see range between 18 to 99 years old, and most of them come to us to apply for financial-assistance. Often, we would link them to the community development councils. Another type of clients are those with care needs – we link them up with the services according to their needs. Then there are clients who need counselling and emotional support,

such as those who come in for surgery and who have anxiety, we help them to manage that; then there are those who go through amputation and may be depressed or may grieve over their loss. What causes burnout in MSWs and how can it be helped? Two things that could cause burnout: one is a very high caseload and the second is lack of training – when social workers feel they are not competent enough. In the hospital environment, high caseloads are common and not within our control, but what could be done would be creating platforms for MSWs to learn, enhance their competencies and exchange ideas. These would then improve their critical thinking skills, build up their confidence and allow for greater job satisfaction. What is your view of the social work industry right now? As a whole, there are a lot of excellent case workers, coordinators and managers. But I think what we are lacking are thought leaders who are able to think critically about social issues – not only that but those who have the moral courage to bring about change. I also feel a lot can be done to integrate social work and healthcare in the community. This I think would bring about better and more seamless continued care for patients. It would be good to get general practitioners and FSCs to work a lot more closely together to provide comprehensive care for people with healthrelated issues. Lastly, social workers can play an important role in building social resilience in a meritocratic society. There are views out there that we have become very uncaring as a society because we focus too much on material gains and personal achievements. Social workers can play a key role in educating our younger generation and helping them develop what former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong called 'heartware'. If we are able to get society to support each other, one, it helps develop social resilience; two, it builds heartware, and three, it allows us to keep our healthcare as sustainable as possible in the future. JUL–SEP 2013





is doing very well for itself! There is also a new zoo that recently opened in Rabat, the capital of Morocco, which my consultancy Bernard Harrison and Friends developed the concept and master plan for. If you are ever there, go see it. It is great! The difference [between working at the Zoo and the consultancy] is that we normally work on the initial development of a zoo and do not get involved in the later design and implementation. Thus one loses the intimacy of the final product. That is why I cherish the projects at the Singapore Zoo in which I was involved with my dream team from start to finish. I did a MSc in Zoology at NUS with a supervisor from the Architecture department. It was a dissertation on the planning of tropical zoos. It took ages to finish because I never did any work and the University kept threatening to chuck me out. I was a child of the old campus at Bukit Timah and grew up there (my father John Leonard Harrison was Professor of Zoology there). It was full of old trees. My memories of the Kent Ridge campus are that it was hot and sprawling, I always got lost and had nowhere to park my car. Worse still, as an undergraduate, you could not get a beer on campus! Tell me things have changed!”

With the Singapore Zoo turning 40 years in June this year, The AlumNUS invites its former CEO Mr Bernard Harrison (MSc ‘87) to talk about his time there. BY THERESA TAN transactions, bringing in new ones and sending some away, and the more gruesome stuff like euthanasia. The Curator also works with the Veterinarian. Wild animals tend to mask their symptoms of illness, so the Veterinarian is usually only called in when it is a bit late. He also works closely with the Horticulturalist to make sure that the plants are not being damaged too much by the animals, and try to ensure that a naturalistic appearance of the enclosure is retained. He also works with the designers to develop new enclosures. When we first opened the Singapore Zoological Gardens in 1973, which has an open concept, there

With a cheetah at the Cheetah Outreach Foundation outside Cape Town, South Africa, 2012.



I CHERISH THE PROJECTS AT THE SINGAPORE ZOO IN WHICH I WAS INVOLVED WITH MY DREAM TEAM FROM START TO FINISH. were a spate of animal escapes. A hippopotamus got out into the [Upper Seletar] reservoir for 48 days, a panther and an eland escaped into the surrounding forested catchment, and a tiger climbed up the fence of its exhibit and walked around the top, physically free. Those were exciting times for a young man like me and very trying times for an older man: my Chairman then, [the late] Dr Ong Swee Law, [especially] when the eland escaped (it was the culmination of escapees). [The government sent a letter] which said something to the effect that this is the largest and fastest antelope on

Walking on the wild side on a canopy walk in Taman Negara, Pahang, 2009.

Main photos courtesy of Bernard Harrison


first joined the Singapore Zoological Gardens in 1973. I was appointed as Curator, and then promoted to Assistant Director and Curator, which is really like a General Curator. The Curator manages the animal collection; he works closely with the keepers to ensure that the animals’ welfare – basics, like adequate shelter, food, water, freedom from discomfort, injury and distress; that they are allowed to exhibit normal behaviour, and have companionship and breed – is taken care of. You try and replicate, be it symbolically at times, the ecological niche that the particular species comes from. You also are in charge of animal

earth and [wanted to know] how we were going to recapture it. Well, two weeks later the eland came home; it just walked up to the back gate of the Zoo and walked right back to its enclosure. Not that much to eat in a rainforest for a grazer of the African plains, I guess! We were young, inexperienced and new to the game. I bet there are still the odd escapes at the Zoo now, but they recapture them more quickly! It has been 11 years since I left, and what do I miss about the Zoo? I miss the staff. We had the Dream Team there. Before the merger of the Zoo and Night Safari with the Bird Park to form Wildlife Reserves Singapore, we had a bunch of staff who all got on with one another, and because there was very little in-house politics, we were all pulling in the same direction.

Without this kind of camaraderie, there was absolutely no way we could have developed a major new animal attraction on a yearly basis at the Zoo and also developed the Night Safari simultaneously. I take my hat off to that team from 1985 to 2000! Of the projects I have worked on, I really like the Primate Kingdom in the Singapore Zoo. It is simple, tranquil, and displays a range of beautiful and social monkeys set in a forest setting with a moat full of arapaima — a huge fish from the Amazon which comes to feed from the keeper’s hand with a sucking noise that scares the pants off most visitors! And, of course there is the Night Safari, which was a project we worked on from scratch, conceiving it with our consultant Lyn de Alwis in 1987 and opening it in 1994. That is probably the single biggest project of which I am proud… and it


Mr Bernard Harrison worked at the Singapore Zoological Gardens when it first opened in 1973, and served as its CEO from 1983 to 2002 when he left to set up his consultancy Bernard Harrison And Friends, which offers planning and design to zoos worldwide. He is the subject of an upcoming book by Dr Kirpal Singh, titled Naked Ape…Naked Boss. Mr Harrison holds a double degree in zoology and psychology from the University of Manchester, Britain, and a MSc in zoology from NUS.

JUL–SEP 2013




Ms Tan (centre, front row) with team mates from the NUS Debating team in Australia circa 1993-1994.

It won for Best Director. The prize was an all-expenses-paid trip to attend a summer course at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney, Australia. During that trip, she went by herself to the Sydney Opera House, not knowing what to watch. The ticketing person suggested Godspell, a musical based on the Gospel according to St Matthew. “I loved it and I prayed that God would let me perform in that musical one day. When my second year in Law School started, I opened up my campus mailbox and on top of all the readings for the year was an audition notice for Godspell – it was the Singapore Repertory Theatre’s first production. I went to the audition and the audition pianist was my long-lost friend Elaine Chan! I [got the role of] the character who sings the song ‘O Bless The Lord My Soul’.” Ms Tan’s other big passion was being part of the NUS Debating Team in her second year. “I got to travel and meet really inspiring and interesting


Showbiz whiz It was her years in the Law Faculty that prepared Ms Selena Tan (Law ‘94) for a life in theatre, and also to make a business out of it. BY THERESA TAN 20


contemporaries. My mates were mainly from Law School. “We went to Australia, Hong Kong and once to Oxford, UK where we took part in the World Debating Championships. It was hilarious because nobody thought we could speak English. We were entered into the ‘English as a foreign language’ category! “We tried not to let on that we only spoke English, and then when we opened our mouths to debate, everyone was just floored – it was a riot! We won best team for English as a foreign language, made it to the semi-finals and I actually got named ninth-best debater in the world!” Ms Tan graduated from Law School in 1994 and was a pupil under Senior Counsel Molly Lim. She continued in litigation for about three years, but theatre continued to beckon, and she worked as a freelance actor. “At that time, with very little savings, I decided to manage all my business commitments, So in 2000, I incorporated Dream Academy to do my one-woman comedies like Report Cuts, Medisaves, PS 21+.” Running a theatre business that turned a profit four years after its incorporation takes a certain amount of savvy, which Ms Tan credits to her legal training. “I think my legal education taught me a lot about rational thinking, how to solve disputes, mediate and also how to carry out research starting from nowhere. Valuable lessons for every day life, for character study in theatre, and for business, as it turns out.”

Photos courtesy of Selena Tan

ince I was seven or eight, I had wanted to be a lawyer,” says Selena Tan, 42, founder of stage production company Dream Academy and creative director for this year’s National Day Parade. “I think it had a lot to do with TV. I loved legal shows – there was The Paper Chase back then. The law fascinated me, particularly criminal law and litigation. I felt that justice was important, from a young age.” Ms Tan fulfilled that desire when she entered NUS’ Law Faculty in 1990. “I enjoyed Moot Court and the legal method and systems classes. I loved Constitutional Law [and listening to my] tutors. There seemed – and still does – to be so many holes to plug [in our Constitution]”. Ms Tan names among her favourite former lecturers Ms Eleanor Wong, then a part-time lecturer on contract negotiations and a playwright famed for Invitation To Treat, a trilogy of plays centered on a lesbian lawyer protaganist. “Eleanor’s was really the best class because you just read the brief, and then started play acting and tried to ‘get your way’,” Ms Tan recalls. Already into theatre way before she joined NUS, and busy with her campus extra-curricular activities, Ms Tan relished those classes because they were “easy and fun”. For someone who had been acting and directing since she was in primary school, NUS was a veritable playground. In her first year of University, Ms Tan, with another friend, Ms Seema Gupta, directed Anton Chekov’s The Good Doctor for the National University of Singapore Students’ Union Arts Festival Competition.



LIM MENG KIN with a memorial bursary


National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Office of Alumni Relations, NUS is launching a fundraising initiative to establish the Lim Meng Kin Memorial Bursary Fund. This endowed bursary fund will perpetuate Associate Professor Lim’s giving spirit, commemorating his service to education at NUS and his contributions to the nation. Alumnus Mr Yeo Keng Joon (Business ’85) has stepped forward to champion this fundraising effort, which is seeking to raise a minimum of S$150,000. The University aims to award this Bursary from

“ I have personally discovered

the truth of this paradox: the more one gives, the more one receives. Whether it is our time, money, knowledge, kindness or love, it is always more blessed to give than to receive.“ Assoc Prof Lim Meng Kin (1950-2013), former Director, NUS Office of Alumni Relations

the upcoming Academic Year 2013/2014 to deserving students facing financial difficulties. Mr Yeo said, “The Bursary will be a fitting tribute to a man who, as a teacher, gave so much to his students.” Assoc Prof Lim, who received financial support as a student, had an illustrious career in the army and in academia. He pioneered aviation medicine in the Air Force, led the Medical Corps of the Singapore Armed Forces and was Director of MINDEF’s Defence Medical Research Institute and Chief Executive Officer of the Health Corporation of Singapore. In 1999, he joined the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine full-time, where he had been teaching part-time since 1983. Assoc Prof Lim became Director of the NUS Office of Alumni Relations in 2010. Associate Professor Victor R Savage, Director, NUS Office of Alumni Relations, said, “Meng Kin epitomised the alumni spirit – selfless devotion, quiet determination, an affable disposition and an engaging personality.”

If you would like to participate in this fundraising initiative and honour Assoc Prof Lim’s memory by making a gift to the Lim Meng Kin Memorial Bursary fund, a gift form is available at LimMengKinMemorialFund.pdf If you are a Singapore tax resident, your gift to NUS is eligible for a tax deduction that is 2.5 times the gift value.

BICYCLING FOR BETTERMENT A champion of multiple charitable causes, Mr Archie Ong, (Arts and Social Sciences ’72) tells The AlumNUS what drives him to ride hundreds of miles every year on his bicycle. BY WAYNE CHAN


here are probably not many past the age of 60 who can cycle for 10 hours straight covering more than 200km a day, braving punishing weather and mountainous terrain just to raise money for those in need. But whether it is for orphaned children or cancer patients, you can count on 64 year-old Mr Archie Ong to be ready for the challenge on any given day. The chairperson for Community Care at the National University of Singapore Society (NUSS), Mr Ong has, since 1996, completed about 20 fund-raising endurance cycling trips in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. The largest amount he has helped to raise so far through these biking trips was more than S$380,000 for the Children’s Cancer Foundation, in 2002. “If you ask me if I can go cycling now to Thailand, I can do it tomorrow,” says Mr Ong, a corporate marketing man turned financial consultant. “You have just got to be ready all the time. You have to be fit enough to endure the sun and the rain 10 hours a day. For example, in Sarawak, the temperature can go up to 41 degrees. “In northwest Thailand, the heat can be so intense, when you are cycling, you can actually fall asleep on the bicycle. And you get hypnotised by the road because there is nothing else in front of you.” To keep himself conditioned, Mr Ong works out for an hour every day: 30 minutes on a stationary bike and another half hour of sit-ups and light



weights-training. On weekends, he takes his bike out for rides that range from 60 to 90km; he can go up to 100km on Sundays when he has more time. He covers this distance by making a few loops around the eastern part of Singapore where he lives, passing through the East Coast Park, Changi and Loyang areas at speeds of 25 to 30 km per hour. When a fund-raising trip is round the corner, Mr Ong intensifies this regime by cycling longer distances of about 120km in five hours or less – for example, from Pasir Ris to Jurong and Choa Chu Kang, and then returning to the east through Yio Chu Kang and Sengkang. Since 1988, he has been involved with Bike Aid Singapore, a group that raises funds for various beneficiaries in the region by way of endurance cycling. Mr Ong’s next trip this year will see him pedalling from Malacca to Batu Pahat, and then on to Singapore to raise money to help feed 250 needy families who reside in one-room rental flats in Marsiling and Chai Chee. His most memorable trip was in 2003 to raise funds for an orphanage

in Sangkhlaburi, a small town in the northwest of Thailand on the border with Myanmar. The orphanage on a mountaintop was to house refugee children from Myanmar. “The most gratifying thing was when [at the top of that mountain], the children were waiting [with] this big banner ‘Welcome Bike Aid Singapore’. They know what you are doing, that you are helping them,” he says, a faraway look in his eyes. “When the kids run up and hug you [even though] you are dirty from the rain and the mud, that is when we know why we did what we did.” Beyond such cycling trips, Mr Ong’s vision – as the chair of Community Care at NUSS – is to roll out more charity initiatives. One of his signature projects is ‘Groceries on Wheels’, an initiative that helps needy residents identified by the respective Community Development Councils (CDC). The initiative is into its fourth run this year after three successful campaigns. Coming from the Class of ’72, the first cohort to launch a bursary fund in 2003 across faculties for underprivileged students – they raised about S$1.3 million that first year – Mr Ong hopes this same passion to serve the community will catch on with future cohorts at NUS, which will include his 20 yearold son who will be among the next batch of students taking Psychology. As one of the pioneers in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences mentorship programme, Mr Ong is already doing his part to shape this next generation of NUS graduates. Taking two to three honours students under his wing every year, Mr Ong’s goal is to acquaint them with the harsh realities of life beyond their books – what he calls the “adversity quotient”.


Main photo courtesy of Archie Ong; other photo by Hong Chee Yan


Mr Ong at Tanah Lot, Bali in 2009 when 30 cyclists rode 460km over challenging terrain across twothirds of the island over five days. Some S$40,000 was raised from the cyclists’ friends and relatives to benefit two homes for the physically-disabled at Ubud.

His mentees also join him in doing voluntary work as part of their character-building. To better prepare them for the working world, Mr Ong also organises networking sessions for his mentees, most of whom are aspiring bankers, to meet senior bankers from his cohort. Volunteering to help others has always been in his blood. Mr Ong is a regional chairman for Lions Clubs International, one of the biggest secular service organisations in the world; he oversees 12 out of 72 Lions Clubs in Singapore. He also sits on the board of the Breast Cancer foundation, and has been the organising chairperson for major fundraising projects for various voluntary welfare organisations in Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia, since 1976. Six of these were national level fundraisng events that have earned a place in the Singapore Book of Records – including establishing a new record for having the Largest Grocery Distribution Social Service with his ‘Groceries on Wheels’ initiative. Mr Ong started volunteering when he was 17. Back then, he used to visit a Red Cross home in Tanah Merah every Sunday as part of a civics club in college. It was at that home, while playing the guitar to cheer up handicapped children, that he found his calling. “The biggest reward I have had was when I went to a Shell station,” he recalls. “As I was making payment, the young lady behind the counter said, ‘Hello Uncle Boss’. The only children who called me ‘Uncle Boss’ were those at the Red Cross home. “I looked at her, this young lady whom I remember as a little girl, with no legs sitting in a wheelchair. She recognised me after all these years.” But while such moments warm his heart, Mr Ong is not looking for any form of recognition for any of the work he does. The importance of having genuine humility, especially when one is serving others through charity work cannot be emphasised enough, he says. “It is not a self-glorification exercise so whatever you do, do it with your head down. People can see through you, so do things with humility, without too much song and dance.”

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– as he describes his line of work – he is a highly sought-after “fashion thinker”. He conceptualises events such as fashion shows, theatre sets and store openings, and was named by CNNGo. com as one of the Singaporeans “who mattered most” in 2009, based on his record for producing shows in cities like London, New York and Shanghai for clients that have included the likes of Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton. Mr Boey has been show director at global events such as the Edinburgh Fashion Festival (2002), Manchester Fashion Week (2002/2003) and Singapore Jewel Fest (2007 through 2010). In 2011 he was creative director for the first Asia Men’s Fashion Week in Singapore. No stranger to television, he has appeared on The Big Boutique (Discovery Travel & Living) and E! Entertainment. Earlier this year, he served as resident judge on the


ALL THE WORLD’S HIS STAGE Fashion director Mr Daniel Boey (Arts and Social Sciences, ’89) recounts his journey from campus stages to global runways. BY THERESA TAN 24


first season of Asia’s Next Top Model, a franchise of the successful reality show, America’s Next Top Model. Mr Boey, who read Geography and Literature during his years at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and who was a member of the Arts Club and Varsity Playhouse, says that his entrance into fashion choreography happened by chance. The Arts Club chairperson, upon hearing that Mr Boey had been scouted to model for a fashion show before entering NUS, “demanded” that he took care of the fashion show for the upcoming Arts Ball. Gamely, Mr Boey choreographed the show with 30 models, based on the theme “The Magic of Movies”. It was so wellreceived, he received a job offer that night from a leading modelling agency. That was in 1986. For the Arts Ball the following year, “I went from 30 models the previous year to 60!” he says. “I loved it so much, I decided then that I wanted to be a show producer for the rest of my life.” Mr Boey started out working in production companies. At his second job, he met Mr Najip Ali, a show producer who would later gain success as the TV producer for shows like Kopi O Teh Tarik and Asia Bagus!. Mr Ali became his first mentor, showing the budding show producer how to put a show together – from hiring models to conceptualising the “plot” of a fashion show, to assembling outfits and accessories that make an impact. Thanks to this positive experience, Mr Boey in turn now mentors new show choreographers. All this time, he was still acting in theatre. But he soon discovered he could not give his best while pursuing both passions, and chose to focus on show production. “It was a matter of meeting the right people at the right time,” says Mr Boey of his successful career. Doors to regional and international work began to open in the early ’90s. But when he went to London in 1997, he got no work. “I now believe in fengshui! I had

Photo by Roy Lim


fter the massacre at Tiananmen Square happened, Mr Daniel Boey dreamed up an opening – that relived the horror of the 1989 killing of thousands of young protesters – for the fashion show he was choreographing for the National University of Singapore Students’ Union (NUSSU) Ball that year. “I wanted to make a statement,” recalls Mr Boey, 48, with a smile. “Social responsibility is important. Fashion is not just a frivolous job; there can be thought-provoking fashion too.” Indeed, the audience at the NUSSU Ball was provoked by the scene of ‘Chinese scholars’ being beaten up by soldiers in Mao-collared uniforms. So memorable was that opening that some of the ball attendees remember it to this day. Pulling off memorable surprises is something that Mr Boey has come to be known – and paid well – for. As Fashion Director of Daniel Boey Pte Ltd, a “creative consultancy company”

a roommate who was an American model, and he was so negative. But the day he left London, I booked six jobs!” The shows included famed designers Julian Macdonald and Lainey Keough. Mr Boey credits his success in London to his “brilliant then-agent” and the fact that “the year that I went was when designers were all doing Chinoiserie!” Anything Asian became instantly desirable. But you could say Mr Boey’s success is due to his career philosophy: to learn everything he could. “The designers I worked with in London would invite me to their tradeshows, and I learned so much – how buyers think, what the designer is thinking of when he or she does something, how a piece of clothing on the catwalk translates into a wearable version for the customers. Understanding all this makes you a better producer.” Perhaps more than any other fashion authority in Singapore, Mr Boey has throughout his career passionately worked to cross-pollinate the local fashion scene with other up-and-coming fashion stars in the world. In 1997 he organised Inspiration UK, bringing to Singapore a showcase of then-unfamiliar British names including DSquared. From 2005 to 2008, he was fashion consultant to DesignSingapore Council for its shows in London, Beijing, Shanghai and Milan – these shows brought Singapore fashion far beyond its shores. Has anything he learned in university been useful in his career? Mr Boey’s answer is an emphatic “yes”. “My knowledge of geography endeared me to people who were not expecting a Chinaman. When I worked in Edinburgh, I could tell them all about how the Lake District was formed, and that broke the ice. Same thing when I worked with a group of South African designers: I started talking to them about the Great Rift Valley, and they suddenly opened up!” After 20-odd years in the industry, if Mr Boey has one unfulfilled wish, it is to see the resurgence of pride in Singapore fashion, the way it was in the ’80s. “Messrs Dick Lee and Alan Koh founded the Society of Designing Arts (SODA) – they were the godfathers of Singapore fashion,” he says. “I really wish we could create that [time] again.” JUL–SEP 2013



GAME, SET AND MATCH! Lunch is more than a midday meal for professional matchmaker and leadership trainer Ms Anisa Hassan (Arts and Social Sciences ’95); it has given her a successful business. BY AMIR ALI



with her father raised her and nine siblings in a house in a kampung in Sembawang, often played matchmaker to friends and relatives. But, as Ms Hassan (the second-youngest child) quips, “I took away her business, and I charge!” Her mum showed how the power of language can be used to achieve a goal – in her case, bringing couples together – while her dad, a former policeman, showed her discipline. “I recognised both their strengths; she was a great talker, and he was a hard worker who rose before all of us and came home from work last.” Growing up with “nothing” – there were not enough toys to go around – the young girl preferred playing outside, catching spiders with her three older brothers to staying at home with her sisters and playing with dolls. From an early age, she saw the


Photo by Steve Zhu


oving from ‘success to significance’ is a buzz phrase 42 yearold Anisa Hassan uses, and one she lives by. And why not? A varied career path has brought success and significant recognition for the professional matchmaker, leadership speaker, trainer and life coach. In 2004, she brought the international dating agency franchise, It’s Just Lunch, to Asia (she was the first franchisee outside of the United States), and since then, business has gone from strength to strength. It has nearly 10,000 clients in Singapore and Thailand, nearly all of whom Ms Hassan says are well-educated professionals who are too busy to search for a partner on their own. “I have been in this business for nine years now, and have never looked back,” she says with a proud smile. Yet, taking on the franchise was the first time she had ventured into business on her own, although it is not surprising at all that she did what she did. Matchmaking, it seems, is in her blood. Ms Hassan’s mother, who along

value of getting out there, talking to people and making friends. She saw the need to be able to communicate well to be heard by her parents – human relations are very important in such a large household. “I learned to ‘reel in’ my parents by starting conversations with good news first to catch their attention,” she says. And although the inter-varsity debater always strove to speak well during her Temasek Junior College days (during which she met her husband, Hazik) and into her years studying International Relations at NUS, she did not fully appreciate the extent and value of her speaking talent until she was spotted by a TV executive at MediaCorp (then called TCS), where she was working. Mr Shaun Seow – now MediaCorp’s CEO – while walking past her desk, overheard the young producer-presenter talking to a colleague. He was impressed enough to ask her to audition for a new broadcast TV news network. Thus it was in 2000 that Ms Hassan – also a former journalist – became one of the pioneer presenters on Channel NewsAsia. When her first daughter (now 12) was born prematurely, Ms Hassan opted to leave the company to tend to her. Soon after though, true to her nature, she started looking for a new career that would play to her strengths. “I knew that I had to go into a ‘people business’. I thought I would try out being a consultant.” However, it was her husband who spotted a business idea for her: To bring an international dating franchise he had heard of in the United States, to Asia. But she was not easily convinced. “So I told him to sell me the idea. We sat down and he laid out the attributes he thought would make this profession interesting and exciting to me.” “So,” says Ms Hassan jokingly,

“listen to your husband, it has its benefits!” The couple have another daughter, aged nine. In 2009, encouraged by the success of It’s Just Lunch Singapore, she saw the need to expand the business. As Ms Hassan puts it: “I have always wanted a better life, and geared myself towards success.” The choice of Bangkok over Tokyo (which she was also considering) as the city to bring It’s Just Lunch to was due in large part to an experience some 20 years ago. It was late 1994 and Ms Hassan was in her Honours year, on a solo two-week trip conducting research on ASEAN for her thesis at Chulalongkorn University in the Thai capital. One day, while roaming the bustling Chatuchak Market, she lost her wallet. “My heart just sank. I had to contact Dr Thitinan [Pongsudhirak, now a prominent Professor at Chulalongkorn University, who had helped to arrange her visit to the varsity]. He came to pick me up and told me not to worry. “He lent me some money and even treated me to dinner and took me to see a movie to make sure I left Bangkok on a positive note.” The episode cemented for her the value of interpersonal relationships. “I had volunteered to show Dr Pongsudhirak around Singapore when he came here for the first time, so he was very accommodating when I went to Bangkok.” She learnt about relationships too, in the NUS coursework that taught her diplomacy and being able to relate to people in a personable yet professional way – something she uses to great effect in her career now. Besides setting busy professionals up on dates, since 2010 Ms Hassan has also been holding relationship workshops to get to the root of their problems finding a partner. A series of relationships she had with people opened doors for her; they saw her potential and gave her a break in life. “Now, it’s time for me to look back and say to others, ‘You have potential. Let’s work at giving you a break.’” JUL–SEP 2013



ONE SPEAKER. 10 MINUTES. BOUNDLESS INSPIRATION. U@live is our monthly guest speaker series that showcase NUS alumni who have a passion for making a difference. Hosted by Alumni Advisory Board member and veteran TV presenter Mr Viswa Sadasivan (Arts and Social Sciences ‘83) at the Shaw Foundation Alumni House, the one-hour session is also streamed live on the U@live website. To register for future U@live events, visit

The second perspective focuses on the environment that supports people’s pursuit of happiness. This would entail ensuring availability of and opportunities for people in key areas such as healthcare, education and housing. The third perspective is to choose one indicator that best approximates what correlates with happiness, and countries like Singapore tend to look at Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Richer countries tend to have better healthcare and education, and lower crime and so correlations with GDP and happiness are high. But the problem with only considering GDP is the “critical element of opportunity”; it does not consider whether people have “equal opportunities to avail of the riches of society.” “[The GDP] has served us well as an indicator but we have reached a point


Ravi Menon (Arts and Social Sciences ’87)


Defining the role of public policy in a country’s ‘Happiness Index’. IF REPORTS AND SURVEYS – including

the 2012 Happy Planet Index which ranks Singapore at 90th position worldwide – are to be believed, it appears that Singaporeans are a pretty miserable bunch. Just why are Singaporeans so unhappy? Can happiness be measured to begin with? In his speech to a full capacity crowd at the Shaw Foundation Alumni House, the Managing Director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Mr Ravi Menon addressed this issue, and asked this question: does public policy have a role in creating happiness? Acknowledging that unlike income or health, which are 28


quantifiable, Mr Menon pointed out that happiness is usually measured through surveys. With a laugh, he quoted writer John Stuart Mill, “If you ask yourself if you are happy, you cease to become so.” Studies have been done on a number of things that correlate with higher levels of happiness: higher incomes, being healthy, being married and being religious. Of course, the most fascinating one is the relationship between higher income and greater happiness. Mr Menon pointed out that this is true within a country: people with higher incomes tend to be happier than those with lower incomes. However, when comparing across countries, the income-happiness correlation becomes “tricky”. Indonesia, for instance, has a higher level of happiness than Singapore despite being a poorer country. What is the role of public policy in happiness? Mr Menon shared three

There was a full capacity crowd for Mr Menon’s talk.

different perspectives in measuring happiness and the state’s role in each. The first perspective involves computing a comprehensive index, such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Life Quality Index and Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index, that covers a range of things including those that governments can influence (economic security, physical and mental health) and those beyond the government’s purview: worklife balance, family relationships, and spirituality.

where that is no longer sufficient,” noted Mr Menon. “Broader environmental factors that support our sense of well-being matter increasingly more. We need to create more composite indices of quality of life that go beyond GDP.” So what makes Mr Menon personally happy? Qualifying that his list assumes basic needs are met, he cited four sources: friends, family, country and God. “Country” refers to Mr Menon’s work. “One can derive much happiness and satisfaction from work if you believe in what you are doing and if you are driven by a sense of purpose in that work. As a public servant, it has been gratifying to do work that you believe in, that you believe makes a contribution,” he said. Mr Menon, who was a prefect and scout leader at Raffles Institution, ended his talk with a quote from the founder of the scout movement, Robert BadenPowell: “The real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to other people.” BY YEO ZHI QI


Ms Chong Siak Ching (Design and Environment ’81)


When one has to step out of one’s comfort zone to discover new models of success. “LETTING GO OF SOMETHING is never easy.

But nothing is ours to own such that there is no letting go,” said Ms Chong Siak Ching when her views were sought about embracing change and letting go. Indeed, she is an appropriate person to speak about the topic of change. Ms Chong started 2013 with a career switch, stepping down from her executive role as President and CEO of Ascendas Pte Ltd to join the National Art Gallery – on 1 April 2013 – as Chief Executive Officer. Having been with Ascendas – a company that manages

and develops business space – for 11 years since its inception, Ms Chong described her decision to leave as a difficult one. “While it was painful to step down, the draw of being able to give back to society made it easier for me to let go,” she told alumni and students at what moderator Mr Viswa Sadasivan would later call one of U@live’s “most uplifting sessions”. The prospect of being able to contribute to nation-building motivated her to make the switch and also

U@LIVE helped to ease her transition into what is for her the new and unexplored world of art. But as Ms Chong explained, “By allowing yourself to let go, you give yourself the opportunity to experience many things.” Besides leading the curatorial work of the National Art Gallery, Ms Chong wears many other hats: she is an independent director on the Board of Singapore Press Holdings as well as the Deputy Chairman of Spring Singapore. She is also a board member of Jurong Health Services and a Governing Board member of NUS-Yale. “I count my blessings every day,” she told her audience at the Shaw Foundation Alumni House. “I feel that I am privileged, and therefore it is so important for people like me to find ways to contribute back to society. [But] whether we have attained success, there are so many opportunities for us to give along the way.” Not only does Ms Chong believe in blessing her community, the multiple award-winning businesswoman (including Outstanding CEO Of The Year 2009 at the Singapore Business Awards) also believes in empowering the people placed under her charge. Describing herself as a “reluctant CEO”, the gentle yet firm leader said, “I believe in listening to my staff. At the end of a discussion, if there are opposing views, I will step in.” A good listener she may be, but that does not mean she avoids making decisions or setting directions for her team. Speaking with quiet conviction, Ms Chong shared, “Gandhi is one of my idols. I feel that it is very important for a leader to be able to rally the troops.” Responding to Mr Sadasivan’s observation that she has no formal training in the arts, Ms Chong said, “I come in without prejudices and can relate to the masses we are reaching out to. This is really an opportunity for me to make art a lot more accessible.” Perhaps the comment Ms Chong left the audience with provides an insight into the type of person she is. “I would rather be the one to initiate the change, then have change initiated on [me],” she said.





which she had penned to The Straits Times in 1986. In her stronglyworded document, Prof Chan asked that the government not curtail public debate on public policies. She wrote: “Singapore cannot afford a cult of silence” as “the likelihood that the government possesses all the right answers is unrealistic”. Indeed, Prof Chan’s thesis for her doctorate from the University of Singapore in 1974 was titled: The Dynamics of One-party Dominance: A Study of Five Singapore Constituencies. Long before “public engagement” was a buzzword, Prof Chan recognised the importance of granting every citizen the right to comment and called for the government to develop the “practice of listening to reasoned argument”. However, times have changed and so has Singapore. “Singapore today is a much more liberal society than in the 1960s,” she told her audience. “More people are active and there are many more civil society groups.” With a laugh, she added, “These days I have been arguing more in favour of the government. I do believe that there has been a good job done. It is not so easy to run countries. Now I begin to point out what is right because I think many Singaporeans fail to see that.” With the 16-year diplomatic stint under her belt, Prof Chan shared that a good ambassador is “someone who makes

Prof Chan with moderator Mr Viswa Sadasivan.

Chan Heng Chee (Arts and Social Sciences ’64)

BOLDLY ENGAGING THE WORLD On navigating Singapore with a global perspective.

“IT IS IMPORTANT for a person to try many

things in life.” Professor Chan Heng Chee, who served as Singapore’s Ambassador to the United States from 1996 to 2012, offered this advice to the capacity crowd who had turned up for her U@live session. “I am disappointed when I meet young diplomats or professionals who tell me that they do not do much because they do not have the opportunities,” she said. Calling on students to develop their initiative rather than passively wait for their next big break, Prof Chan shared that she took on multiple jobs and internships before her undergraduate days in the then-University of Singapore. From giving private tuition to taking

on an internship as a journalist at the Singapore Free Press (Singapore’s then second English-language newspaper which had merged with The Malay Mail in 1962), she exposed herself to a wide range of different activities. These helped to enrich her varsity education. Prof Chan, who had taught Political Science in the National University of Singapore for 21 years, shared her insights on what Singaporeans need to equip themselves with to compete and engage with the world. “You need to have an entrepreneurial spirit because people are looking for creative leadership,” she said. Defining a leader as one who is able to “make things happen when it otherwise would not have”, Prof Chan emphasised the importance of embarking on different pursuits so that one will develop creativity, or an ability “to look at things with a different eye”.

Her observation is that Singaporean students may be book-smart but they seem to lack curiosity. “When I attend talks and dialogues with an international crowd, not a single Singaporean asks questions,” she said. “It bothers me so much.” Singaporeans are generally good at their work but an important skill that is missing is the ability to sell themselves, their projects and ideas. In an increasingly competitive world, Prof Chan emphasised that Singaporeans need to be entrepreneurial to be able to compete and stand out from the crowd. Besides her curiosity, one other trait distinctive to Prof Chan is her boldness. Moderator of the session Mr Viswa Sadasivan, read aloud a letter


JUL–SEP 2013



things happen”. When she went to Washington in 1996, it was the tail end of the Michael Fay incident (Fay was an American teenager who was fined and caned for vandalism and theft, in a landmark 1994 case that won Singapore notoriety for its strict laws), and there was some American hostility towards Singapore. Speaking about the negative publicity that the city-state received from the Washington press as a result of sentencing Fay to four strokes of the cane, Prof Chan took it upon herself to turn Singapore’s reputation around. She met up with the editors of the Washington Post and questioned the connection that the press made between Singapore and authoritarian countries, such as Iraq and China, asking if it was a fair and accurate association. It was a bold move to question a newspaper’s objectivity but as Prof Chan put it, “You have got to find an opportunity to bring it up so I went to the lions’ den and spoke.” Prof Chan, who received the Inaugural Asia Society Outstanding Diplomatic Achievement Award when she left Washington at the end 32


varsity days. Titled Safer Art, the poem made a comparison between writing and art, suggesting that the latter was a safer form of expression as it was more ambiguous. The poem attracted attention from the press who interpreted it as the university taking a stand for literary freedom, and she was at the centre of a controversy once again. When asked her thoughts on the Media Development Authority’s new ruling to license news websites of a certain size, Prof Chan paused before replying, “I would prefer if they did not do that.” She described the approach as a “draconian” one in the active social media sphere. When a member of the audience sought her opinion on minimum wage, Prof Chan quoted the late Dr Goh Keng Swee’s thoughts on the issue, saying that a fixed wage would result in employers paying their workers just the minimum. However, she reasoned, “I think there is a certain wage that you have to give. If you put out too much of a benchmark, some people would not even get a job. But there has to be a decent wage.” Another member of the audience wanted to know if, having travelled extensively as an ambassador, Prof Chan (whose current appointments includes Ambassador-at-Large with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Member of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights) is able to “walk with the common people” and convey their thoughts and struggles to political authorities. To that, Prof Chan shared frankly that her daily life is similar to that of any other person living in Singapore. She goes to the market, speaks to the cab drivers on her taxi rides, and sees no difficulty in conveying the thoughts of the less articulate to political leaders. To Mr Sadasivan’s question as to whether she has “lost the fire in her belly”, the Katong Covent alumnus replied with a smile, “I have not. I am still very concerned about the bottom line and safety nets. It must be my convent upbringing.” BY YEO ZHI QI PROF CHAN SPOKE ON 29 MAY 2013.


of her appointment in 2012, likens the role of an ambassador to that of an entrepreneur’s. Reflecting on her experience, she said it is important for diplomats to learn how to think out of the box to find solutions to tackle problems. Being embroiled in a fair amount of controversy – without meaning to – during her growing up years helped in her ability to think on her feet. Perhaps, those episodes trained her to be strong to take on tougher challenges later on in life, she said. During her newspaper internship, Prof Chan, who comes from a humble family background, was assigned to write about what it was like to be the first in her family to enter university. Despite submitting the piece under the pen name “Daisy Chan”, her schoolmates found out that she was the author of the article. “I was so wrecked at that time,” she recalled. “The article had attracted unkind attention and the bullies made me feel, ‘Oh you think so highly of yourself?’” A similar episode repeated itself when Prof Chan submitted a poem to her campus magazine during her


THE AWESOME THREESOME Different cohorts, different Faculties, but united in their passion for popularising Class Gifts at their alma mater.


etween the three of them they have raised almost S$4.5 million and championed more than 280 bursaries and student programmes at their alma mater. Mr David Ho (Arts and Social Sciences ’72), Mr Yeo Keng Joon (Business ’85) and Mr Seah Cheng San (Engineering ’82) are the stalwarts of Class Giving at NUS, galvanising many to support a cause dear to their hearts. A Class Gift, which sees groups of alumni band together to support current students in need, is an expression of the strength of the collective giving spirit. Mr Ho, who launched the first Class Gift at NUS – the Class of ’72 Student Bursary Fund – says, “A Class Gift is perpetual and endowed. It will be remembered forever. It is a shining star, for many to follow. Already, the Class of ’72 is much talked about by other cohorts and we hope other Classes will be similarly encouraged to do more for our alma mater.” Mr Ho is the current president of the National University of Singapore Society, the University’s graduate club. A Named Class Gift with subnaming can be established with a collective gift of S$250,000. Subnaming offers individual donors who have made a contribution of S$25,000 or more to this collective gift the opportunity to set up named bursaries as a part of the Class Gift. By giving to a Class Gift with sub-naming, you celebrate your time at the University, help the next generation and commemorate someone you love or honour with a named gift. Mr Yeo’s first significant gift to



NUS was to set up the Yeo Kim Neo Bursary Fund in the memory of his sister under the Class of ’72 Fund. He says, “A Class Gift is a good way for alumni of the same cohort to do something meaningful. I had worked with David on a number of projects during the NUS Centennial celebrations and was impressed with his efforts, leadership and sincerity in wanting to make a difference to needy students. So when David approached me for a donation, I did not hesitate. My sister had died much too young, in her 40s, with three very young children, one of whom had just graduated from NUS. I wanted the children to have another way to remember their mother by.” And so the Class Giving spark was lit. The idea of the Class Gift made a deep impression on Mr Yeo and he went on to launch the NUSBSAA Bursary Fund using the Class of ’72’s model Mr David Ho when he was the President of the NUS (Arts and Social Sciences ’72) Business School Alumni Association (NUSBSAA). He also helped will perpetuate and to organise the amplify. “I hope every NUSBSA Student Faculty will work towards Experience Fund, having their own Class which has enabled 11 students Gift,” says Mr Seah. “We need people who will with financial be the champions for difficulties to Class Gifts.” go on exchange Mr Ho adds, “The programmes challenge is to set in this year. These motion fundraising gifts caught the attention of projects that are scaleable Mr Seah, who and sustainable. As the pushed for the University grows, so do establishment of our plans. We want to (From left) Mr David Ho (Arts and Social Sciences ’72), Mr Seah Cheng San (Engineering the DRH/Sheares create giving platforms ’82) and Mr Yeo Keng Joon (Business ’85) Hall Alumni that will be easy to use Endowment and will last in perpetuity. Fund and the Engineering Class of 1982 It is not enough to just set up the Fund, we Bursary Endowed Fund. Since then, other must challenge ourselves to grow it. That is Faculties have launched their own Class what makes this so exciting.” Gifts, like the Class of ’76 Engineering The urgency and the worthiness of Fund and the Department of Real Estate the cause they are promoting are brought home regularly to Mr Ho, Mr Yeo and Endowed Bursary Fund, among others, Mr Seah in their frequent interactions with and the hope is that this chain reaction

the students, which they all treasure. Mr Yeo says, “People think that there is no poverty in Singapore, but that is not true. Students face many different kinds of financial challenges – whether it is the death of the sole breadwinner or ill-health. “I see students breaking down when talking about their financial circumstances. By helping one person attain a tertiary degree, you are helping an entire family and future generations.” When speaking to donors, Mr Yeo likes to remind them that while there are many worthy causes out there, this is “our alma mater”. Mr Yeo is a living example of what financial aid can help one achieve. His father passed away when he was six, leaving his illiterate mother to cope with her three children. Mr Yeo received financial assistance throughout his educational life. He says, “Without this financial support, it would have been impossible for me to break the proverbial poverty cycle.” In fact all three Class Giving champions have benefitted from


philanthropy. Mr Seah received the Singapore Armed Forces (Local) Scholarship to study Engineering at NUS while Mr Ho received the Lee Wah Bank Scholarship, which enabled him to live in Dunearn Road Hostels, an experience that left a lasting impression. “We benefitted from our education at NUS. We had a good time. We built strong relationships here. Now we want to help others. It is very satisfying to be able to do this,” says Mr Yeo. Adds Mr Seah, “We want young people from financially depressed families to have a fair chance in life. If they have to spend a lot of time working part-time to make ends meet, it makes it very difficult for them to keep up with school work. We don’t want them to fall behind.” It is Mr Ho’s hope that “more Class Champions will emerge over the years to use the Class Fund platform to raise funds and support financially challenged students to walk the same path as we did. This passion for giving back to our alma mater must be passed on from generation to generation.”

by supporting unconventional but equally compelling artistic studies overseas. As an emerging orchestral conductor, what I need now is a platform on the world stage, and the grant supports my private studies on the music of Jean Sibelius NUS) in 1934. It is fitting in Finland, where the that the first recipients composer lived.” of the Grant in honour of Emily says, “The Grant an eminent NUS alumhas given me the chance nus are two NUS alumni to attend festivals and musicians – Wong Kah interact with composers Chun (Yong Siew Toh and musicians from all Conservatory ’11), a prizeover the world, and learn winning conductor, and different conditions and Ms Christine Khor, Director, NUS Centre For the Arts and Wong Kah Chun. Emily Koh (Yong Siew ideas that influence their Toh Conservatory ’09), music. This is important an award-winning contemporarybecause my long-term goal is to create classical music composer. a unique artistic voice as well as instil For information on The Paul Abisheganaden Grant a deeper appreciation and understandmaking a gift to for Artistic Excellence will enable ing of the arts in the community.” NUS, contact us at 1800-DEVELOP them to pursue short courses such Paul Abisheganaden was a strong (1800-338-3567) as summer workshops and conferadvocate of promoting the arts or email askdvo@ ences locally and internationally, to . through festivals and concerts. For further refine their artistic skills. this, he received the Member of the If you have a story to share, please Kah Chun says, “The Paul Order of the British Empire (1956), contact us at Abisheganaden Grant for Artistic the Cultural Medallion (1986) and the whatsyourstory@ Excellence sets dreams into motion COMPASS Meritorious Award (2006).



aul Abisheganaden, the founding director of the Centre of Musical Activities at the National University of Singapore (NUS), was a pioneer of Singapore’s music scene. Mr Abisheganaden, who passed away in 2011, was the first Singaporean conductor of a largescale music group and he set up the Singapore Chamber Ensemble (a precursor to the Singapore Symphony Orchestra). To encourage emerging artists to follow in his footsteps, his daughters have established the Paul Abisheganaden Grant for Artistic Excellence at the NUS Centre For the Arts (CFA), as the Centre of Musical Activities is known today. Mr Abisheganaden graduated from Raffles College (a predecessor of

JUL–SEP 2013



THIRSTY THURSDAYS To reach out to, and engage younger alumni, a platform for young alumni to meet new friends and stay connected to their alma mater was launched by the NUS Office of Alumni Relations. Named ‘Thirsty Thursdays’, the inaugural session was held outside the NUS Kent Ridge Campus, at Switch by Timbre. Over an informal

and relaxed backdrop, 115 alumni met new friends and networked over drinks and pizza. A live-band provided the perfect finishing touch to a very pleasant soirée. The next ‘Thirsty Thursdays’ session has been scheduled for September 2013.

Alumni Matters: The Next Step

Visit for more information.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Alumni were asked which five adjectives best summed up their impression of the event. Here are some of their answers:

“Fantastic, Fresh, Fruitful, Fun and ‘Foodilicious’!” Leong Chee Chew (Science ’09)

“Enjoyable, Comfortable, Thoughtful, Refreshing and Delightful!”

9am to 6pm Shaw Foundation Alumni House







Leong Pei Lin (Science ’09)

“Superb, Exciting, Fun, Delicious and Cool!” Audrey Julienda (Engineering, ’08)


Formed in February 2013, the NUS French Double Degree Programme Alumni (FDDPA) group held its inaugural meeting on 30 March 2013, followed by a bowling session with new FDDPA students. Ms Eng Se-Hsieng, a pioneering FDDPA graduate (Engineering ’03) and President of the group leads a six-member committee comprising current Masters students and alumni. Associate Professor Lim Kah Bin from the Mechanical Engineering department is both Advisor to, and Director of the group. The group will hold its next event on 20 July 2013.

(Front row, extreme left), Ms Eng Se-Hsieng (with son), the group’s first president, with committee members and FDDPA students.



As a continuation of last year's theme "Making Sure U Matter", this year’s theme "Alumni Matters: The Next Step" aims to address the important and critical roles of alumni that support, advance and impact the University. The NUS Alumni Leaders Forum is specially designed for alumni leaders, volunteers as well as student leaders (as future alumni) to share, learn and discuss new ideas and best practices in alumni matters.


Plenary Sessions Networking Lunch Breakout Sessions Summary & Closing Appreciation Dinner

An initiative of the NUS Alumni Advisory Board ENQUIRIES

Ms Wendy Ng at 6516 1913 or 36



AN EVENING OF SHARING On the evening of 16 April 2013, NUS engineering alumni gathered at Switch by Timbre for an evening of relaxed networking. Food, drinks and live music created the perfect backdrop for alumni to unwind and interact with the Engineering Alumni Singapore (EAS) committee members who were there to share upcoming EAS activities such as career progression talks. Representatives from the NUS Career Centre were also present to talk about the career needs of young alumni. Graduating students who were interested to find out more about EAS activities also attended the event that was organised by EAS.

Senior Alumni:

Minister Heng Swee Keat (standing, in pink shirt) in conversation with NUS Senior Alumni.

CONVERSATION WITH A DIFFERENCE On 10 May 2013, the University’s senior alumni engaged in a conversation with a difference with the Minister of Education, Mr Heng Swee Keat, at NUS’ Eusoff Hall. Minister Heng is Chairman of ‘Our Singapore Conversation’ – an initiative where Singaporeans from all walks of life are invited to give their views on the issues and challenges faced. Currently into its second phase, participants are asked to delve into specific policy areas such as housing, healthcare, education and jobs, rather than the open-ended discussions in the initial phase. About 60 senior alumni and friends turned up that day, to engage Minister Heng on their vision of the future Singapore landscape. Dr Rosemary Khoo (Arts and Social Sciences ’65),



President of the NUS Senior Alumni group, chaired the discussion based on four topics that were represented by four groups. Topics discussed ranged from the needs in housing and healthcare, to the contributions in volunteerism and life-long-learning, including University of the Third Age. Numerous thoughtful views were raised by the four groups and participants. Dr Khoo urged Singaporeans to see the “silver lining” in seniors instead of a “silver tsunami”. Representative of the housing group Mr Andrew Tan (Architecture, Building and Real Estate ’72), proposed that the Housing and Development Board (HDB) build “vertical kampongs” with healthcare facilities. Dr Philbert Chin (Medicine ’59), proposed national “forward planning health insurance” whereby a person pays progressively lower premiums from the start of the work life to retirement. The session saw Minister Heng responding to all comments and suggestions. On whether more can be done in areas like HDB housing and healthcare, he observed that Singapore is “a work in progress” in various aspects. However, Minister Heng also shared that dialogue is ongoing with the four local public universities, for support of life-long-learning. He also expressed his wish that every child leaving school would have been ingrained with the seed of learning throughout life. Dr Chiang Hai Ding (Arts and Social Sciences ’59)

To find out more about EAS, contact the committee at or visit the EAS website at


Inaugural China Film Festival.indd 1

BONDING ALUMNI THE KELONG WAY! The Building and Estate Management Alumni (BEMA) group regularly organises social events to provide a platform for their alumni to get to know one another better. On 27 January 2013, the group organised a trip to Kukup, Johor. Highlights of the trip included visits to a fruit farm, a kelong, as well as a sumptuous seafood lunch and dinner, and shopping for the impending Chinese New Year. Alumni also had the opportunity to learn more about fish farming during the trip.

BEMA alumni

5/23/13 5:19 PM


Prof Tan Eng Chye (left), Deputy President (Academic Affairs) and Provost, seen here with Dr Toh See Kiat, Toronto Alumni Chapter Chairperson.


Toronto, a new alumni chapter About 70 NUS alumni gathered in a Toronto restaurant to celebrate the launch of the NUS Toronto Alumni Chapter on 4 May 2013. The evening kicked off with a lion dance, welcoming Guest-of-Honour Professor Tan Eng Chye (Science ’84), NUS Deputy President (Academic Affairs) and Provost, and Associate Professor Victor R Savage (Arts and Social Sciences ’72), Director of the NUS Office of Alumni Relations. In his welcome speech, Dr Toh See Kiat (Law ’82), Chairperson of the Chapter,

introduced the Toronto Chapter’s executive committee, and talked about the nearly year-long lead up to the launch. Assoc Prof Savage then shared an overview of developments at NUS, followed by Prof Tan who gave a presentation on NUS as a whole. Prof Tan spoke of how the University has expanded with connections to institutions all over the world, and also about developments on the campus itself. Following this, the Chapter was officially inaugurated by the setting off of firecrackers. A sumptuous spread and a variety

of performances put together by alumni and guests then followed. Retired professor Elton Kam began the evening’s entertainment with three pieces on his violin. Gina Lee (Arts and Social Sciences ’97) then regaled the audience with a soulful rendition of “Home”. Dr Toh rounded off the evening thanking guests who had graced the occasion with their presence, as well as inviting alumni to help build a strong Toronto Chapter. Mr Tejas Aivalli (Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy ’11) Vice-Chairperson, Toronto Alumni Chapter

of Her Excellency Ms Karen Tan, Singapore’s High Commissioner to India, and members from the Singapore High Commission, some of whom are NUS alumni. Prof Tan shared new developments at NUS with alumni and encouraged them to stay connected with the University and Singapore. Mr Prashant Pundrik (Business ‘08) Chairperson, New Delhi Alumni Chapter

New Delhi The NUS New Delhi Alumni Chapter organised a reunion dinner to celebrate its 10th anniversary and Holi, the Festival of Colours on 26 March 2013. NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, NUS Assistant Vice-President (University and Global Relations) Associate Professor Peter Pang, NUS Professor



B V R Chowdari, representatives from the NUS Development Office, and more than 70 alumni from the University’s Faculties/Schools of Arts and Social Sciences, Engineering, Design and Environment, Law, Business and Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy attended the event. The occasion was graced by the presence

Prof Tan (in black jacket and orange tie) celebrating with NUS alumni and NUS staff.

The long-awaited Spring NUS Tokyo Alumni Reunion was held on 19 April 2013. A total of 34 alumni attended the event. The event provided alumni with yet another opportunity to reunite


It was a picnic very much unlike others, as alumni took shelter in a large shed amid intermittent downpour. Held on 20 April 2013 at the Lane Cove National Park in Sydney and organised by the Sydney Alumni Chapter, the picnic saw 22 NUS alumni participants and their equally adventurous children braving the elements

and to get to know one another better. Participants exchanged the latest updates about their lives and shared fond memories of their time in NUS. The next gathering for the Chapter has been scheduled for 6 September 2013. Mr Tetsuya Fujimoto (Business ‘91) Chairperson, Tokyo Alumni Chapter

for an outdoor gathering. The hot food prepared by the ladies of the group was a welcome distraction from the rain. There were also a few first-time participants, including a young couple who had relocated to Sydney from Singapore three years ago. Mr Francis Tan (Accountancy ’94) Treasurer, Sydney Alumni Chapter

Chengdu In celebration of the NUS Chengdu Alumni Chapter’s 3rd anniversary, a dinner for alumni was held on 27 April 2013. Many of the University’s Chinese alumni present had not visited Singapore for a while and were thus happy to share their fond memories of NUS and Singapore over dinner. The Chapter plans to organise another dinner get-together

for its alumni at the end of the year. Mr William Gan (School of Computing ’89) Chairperson, Chengdu Alumni Chapter

Vancouver The NUS Alumni Association of Vancouver held a reunion dinner at the popular Victoria Chinese Restaurant in Vancouver, on 5 May 2013. Mr Arthur Yap, the Chairperson of the Chapter, began the evening with a welcome speech. This was followed by Associate Professor Victor R Savage (Arts and Social Sciences ’72), Director of the NUS Office of Alumni Relations, updating alumni on some of the new

developments in NUS. The atmosphere for the evening was characterised by the warmth and camaraderie of old friends meeting one another again. Music filled the air as alumni sang and performed and the night drew to a close with alumni joining hands and singing “Auld Lang Syne”. 70 alumni and spouses attended the reunion. Mr Arthur Yap (Arts and Social Sciences, ’63) Chairperson, Vancouver Alumni Chapter

AUCKLAND HEALTH SEMINAR Active Ageing was the topic of the day at the Auckland Alumni Chapter’s Health Seminar on 6 April 2013. Speaker Dr Diana Chan (Medicine, ’80) did not hesitate to remind alumni participants of the reality of ageing but the sober telling was delivered with a great sense of humour. Trained in pediatrics and family medicine, Dr Chan now

serves at the Ang Mo Kio Thye Hua Kwan Community Hospital in Singapore. Dr Chan’s professional yet candid manner invited numerous questions from the audience. Following the seminar, alumni bonded over a three-course dinner. Mr Ee Chiong Boon (Arts and Social Sciences ‘82) Chairperson, Auckland Alumni Chapter

JUL–SEP 2013




Concerts by the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (YSTCM). SUN YI PERCUSSION RECITAL 12.15pm, 21 August 2013 (Wednesday), Conservatory Orchestra Hall Percussionist Sun Yi, an alumnus of YSTCM, is now pursuing a Masters degree in Graz, Austria. He was the second prize-winner and the only Asian in the final round of the 3rd Edition of the International Marimba Competition in Salzburg. This lunchtime recital will chronicle the journey of his percussion learning.

MESSIAEN’S QUARTET FOR THE END OF TIME ROSE HSIEN JOU, violin ZHANG FENG, clarinet LU BINGXIA, cello ABIGAIL SIN, piano BEETHOVEN Piano Trio in B-flat major, Op. 11 KODALY Duo for violin and cello, Op. 7 MESSIAEN Quatuor pour la fin du temps

7.30pm, 23 August 2013 (Friday), Conservatory Concert Hall Conservatory alumni Rose Hsien, Zhang Feng, Lu Bingxia and Abigail Sin return to the Conservatory to perform an evening of chamber music including French composer Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, a work of transcending beauty with moments of archangel-like severity.

QIAN ZHOU AND BERNARD LANSKEY VIOLIN AND PIANO RECITAL QIAN ZHOU, violin BERNARD LANSKEY, piano BEETHOVEN Violin Sonata No. 6, Op. 30 No. 1 BRAHMS Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 100 DEBUSSY Violin Sonata in G minor, L 140 YSAŸE Poème élégiaque, Op. 12 GINASTERA Pampeana No. 1, Op. 16 (From left) Abigail Sin, Rose Hsien and Lu Bingxia



7.30pm, 24 August 2013 (Saturday), Conservatory Concert Hall Alongside three contrasting works each central to the violin and piano canon (Beethoven, Brahms and Debussy), this recital presents two perhaps lesser known masterpieces, Ysaÿe’s hauntingly evocative Poème élégiaque and Ginastera’s colourful and dancelike Pampeana.

Albert Tiu

Takács Quartet Recital

Faculty Recital Series


Schubert Song Transcriptions LISZT Gretchen am Spinnrade LISZT & GODOWSKY Liebesbotschaft LISZT Der Muller und der Bach LISZT, RACHMANINOV & GODOWSKY Wohin?

7.30pm, 30 August 2013 (Friday), Conservatory Concert Hall Join us for a journey through the Schubert song cycles, beginning with Schwanengesang. The Schubert song cycles are considered to be the pinnacle of the genre; Winterreise and Die Schöne Müllerin are the undisputed greatest contributions to Lieder from the undisputed greatest Lied composer. Schwanengesang could then be considered the ‘second cousin’ of the three cycles as it is not officially a cycle which Schubert intended, but rather a collection of songs assembled after his death and published as his ‘Swan-song’. The songs are based on the works of three poets, Rellstab, Heine and Seidl and unlike his other two major cycles, are not joined by a unifying theme. Die Schöne Müllerin, in contrast, presents the story of a youth who falls in love with a beautiful miller’s daughter and who subsequently comes to a desperate end. Winterreise presents a bleak picture of the descent into madness of a man who is cast out from the place where he had known love and acceptance. While possessing no such compelling story as

Qian Zhou

Robert Spano

ALAN BENNETT, tenor ALBERT TIU, piano SCHUBERT Schwanengesang

Alan Bennett

Enrico Pace

recording of the complete Beethoven sonatas, Leonidas Kavakos and Enrico Pace present an exquisite evening featuring the Sonata No. 7. The programme also includes the much-loved Respighi Sonata of 1917, as well as the early Sonata posthume by Ravel, a work filled with lyricism and rich tonal colours.

Leonidas Kavakos

these, what Schwanengesang does have is amazing music coming from the end of Schubert’s life, including some of his most famous songs such as the lyric Ständchen, the horrifying Doppelgänger and the effervescent Liebesbotschaft. Paired with the cycle are a set of piano transcriptions based on Schubert songs, including Liebesbotschaft, as well as some from Die Schöne Müllerin which will be performed on 14 February 2014 at the SOTA Concert Hall. In August 2014, Alan Bennett and Albert Tiu will conclude their journey through the cycles with Schubert’s epic Winterreise. Visiting Artist Series

LEONIDAS KAVAKOS & ENRICO PACE IN RECITAL LEONIDAS KAVAKOS, violin ENRICO PACE, piano BEETHOVEN Sonata for violin and piano No. 7 in C minor, Op. 30 No. 2 DEBUSSY Sonata for violin and piano in G minor RAVEL Sonata posthume RESPIGHI Sonata for violin and piano in B minor

8pm, 3 September 2013 (Tuesday), Conservatory Concert Hall, S$30/S$20 from SISTIC As a follow-up to their recently-released


Conservatory Orchestra Series

All information correct at time of print and is subject to change without prior notice. Please visit for updates; Leonidas Kavakos photo by Decca at Daniel Regan; Tackacs quartet photo by Keith Saunders

Alumni Series


Thomas Hecht

7.30pm, 4 September 2013 (Wednesday), Esplanade Concert Hall, S$15 In celebration of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music’s 10th Anniversary, internationally renowned American conductor Robert Spano, Ong Teng Cheong Professor of Music 2013/14, conducts this special concert. With an extensive discography of 21 critically-acclaimed recordings, Robert Spano has garnered six Grammy Awards and is the Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Aspen Music Festival and School. Beginning with Sibelius’ intensely

Bernard Lanskey

beautiful one-movement symphony, the Conservatory Orchestra will be joined by Head of Piano Studies, Professor Thomas Hecht, in Brahms’ virtuosic and majestic 2nd piano concerto. Visiting Artist Series


String Quartet No. 19 in C major, K465, ‘Dissonance’ String Quartet No. 2, ‘Intimate Letters’ String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 51

20 September 2013 (Friday), 7.30pm, Conservatory Concert Hall, S$20/S$10 from SISTIC Recognised as one of the world's great ensembles, the Takács Quartet plays with a unique blend of drama, warmth and humour, combining four distinct musical personalities to bring fresh insights to the string quartet repertoire. In 2012, Gramophone announced that the Takács was the only string quartet to be inducted into its first Hall of Fame, along with such legendary artists as Jascha Heifetz, Leonard Bernstein and Dame Janet Baker. The ensemble also won the 2011 Award for Chamber Music and Song presented by the Royal Philharmonic Society in London. The members of the Takács Quartet are Christoffersen Faculty Fellows at the University of Colorado. The Quartet's commitment to teaching is enhanced by summer residencies at the Aspen Festival and at the Music Academy of the West, Santa Barbara. The Takács is a Visiting Quartet at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London. The Quartet will also conduct a chamber music masterclass at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music on 21 September 2013 at 3pm. JUL–SEP 2013




Chia Yu Chian, Village (1956), Oil on board.

Choo Keng Kwang, Street Scenes (1960), Oil on canvas.

A Brief History of Malayan Art.

In 1963, Marco Hsu, art critic and regular columnist who contributed articles about the history of Art in Malaya, published a series of essays on the cultural history of the people of the Malayan Peninsula, which were compiled into a book published in Chinese, A Brief History of Malayan Art (published in 1965, translated into English in 1999 by Dr Lai Chee Kien, Assistant Professor at the School of Design and Environment, and an NUS alumnus). Through his analysis of the development of art history in Malaya and Singapore, Marco Hsu raised questions of Malayan identities

Sunyee, Flowers and peacock (1960), Watercolour and ink on cotton.



and culture for the young nation. The NUS Museum presents the exhibition on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the book’s publication, and the Museum will use art and artefacts referred to by Marco Hsu to highlight questions of identity and nation building raised on the eve of an anticipated political development of significance — the creation of a merged, independent nation. The exhibition will also feature artworks familiar to alumni who have gone through the then University of Singapore’s Art History programme.

Head of a Bodhisatva. 1st – 3rd Century, possibly Ghandara.

Xu Beihong, Magpies (1945, probably Singapore), ink on paper.


University Cultural Centre 50 Kent Ridge Crescent National University of Singapore Singapore 119279 Tel: [65] 6516 8817 Fax: [65] 6778 3738 Website: Email: Blog:

Opening hours 10am – 7.30pm (Tuesdays to Saturdays) 10am – 6pm (Sundays) Closed on Mondays and Public Holidays

All information correct at time of print and is subject to change without prior notice. Please visit for updates.

Liu Kang, Indian New Year (1957), Oil on board.




Young alumnus Mr Hoirul Ismi bin Ya’akop has made a gift to support students at his alma mater, the National University of Singapore (NUS), every year since his Commencement Class gift in the year of his graduation. The Mechanical Engineering major credits his NUS experience for where he is today. WHAT WERE THE HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR NUS DAYS? So many! I took French and went on a Student Exchange Programme (SEP) to Grenoble, France. I picked up (martial arts) Silat and won medals for teamNUS Silat. I also remember organising events for the NUS Muslim Society and Malay Language Society. Under the Youth Research Programme, I was given the opportunity to do research with A*STAR’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology. Even the sleep-deprived nights spent studying with friends are highlights too. TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE NOW. After graduating, I took up the position of commercial and marketing engineer for Saipem, an Italian oil



and gas service company. After three years, I switched to the Procurement Department, where I am now. I’m married and my wife and I are expecting our first child in August. HOW DID NUS HELP YOU GET TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY? My grades were not spectacular and my technical electives had nothing to

most is how I perform and learn on the job. The soft skills I picked up at University come in handy. YOU STARTED GIVING IN YOUR FINAL YEAR AT NUS. WHY DO YOU CHOOSE TO CONTINUE TO GIVE TO NUS? I had to support myself at University and got distracted from my studies because I was working part-time and giving tuition. Fortunately I received the Lembaga Biasiswa Kenangan Maulud Award and the awards that allowed me to go on the SEP. I am proud to have gone to NUS and I am thankful for the experiences it has given me. I hope other NUS students have similar experiences and I want to contribute [to making these happen] in any small way I can. I believe giving to NUS builds a tradition and a University to be proud of. It also contributes to the great things that NUS students achieve and sets the tone for students to make a difference to society. My advice is for alumni to contribute an amount they can [afford to and] continue to give every year. WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR THE RECIPIENTS OF YOUR GIFTS? Just for them to be thankful and pay the kindness forward in whatever way they can.

Epero tem labore con nusdaecum repudit el iniminverum

do with oil and gas. But I received the NUS Alumni Student Exchange Award and the DUO-France award from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The two awards enabled me to go to France on the Student Exchange Programme. My first boss was French and probably saw that on my resume. Now what matters

ANY TIPS FOR CURRENT NUS STUDENTS? Get hold of test papers from past years. I used to For information on think that at this making a gift to level, these would NUS, contact us at not help much but 1800-DEVELOP (1800338-3567) or email seriously, they do. Depending on If you have a story to the module and share, please contact lecturer, webcasts us at whatsyourstory@ may turn out to be an effective tool for learning too. Other than that, let your passion and interests flow as NUS has so much to offer! But I think the students already know that.

Have you changed your address or telephone number? Keep us informed and we will keep you updated on the latest alumni happenings.

Stay Connected through or drop us an email at


NUS President, Prof Tan Chorh Chuan (Medicine ’83) N AT I O N A L U N I V E R S I T Y O F S I N G A P O R E , 2 0 1 3

“As you pursue exciting new opportunities, each of you will no doubt also face challenges.

I urge you to go confidently forward, and regardless of your choice of work or opportunity, to give it your very best. I am also

delighted to welcome you as the newest members of our NUS alumni family. You will always have a special place here, and I very much hope that you would stay deeply connected to your alma mater. Wherever your journey takes you, I wish you the very best, to make meaningful contributions, to find fulfillment, and above all, to live life fully.”

Michelle Obama

Meryl Streep

G EO R G E WA S H I N GTO N U N I V E R S I T Y, 2 0 1 0

B A R N A R D C O L L EG E , 2 0 1 0

“We live in a culture, after all, that tells us that our lives should be easy – that we can have everything we want without a whole lot of effort. But the truth is, and you know this:

“You know, you don’t have to be famous. You

just have to make your mother and father proud of you.”

Creating anything meaningful takes time.”

H A R VA R D U N I V E R S I T Y, 2 0 0 8

wi s e

“It is impossible to live without failing at something,


unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in


which case, you fail by default.”




Alumni Day @ Bukit Timah Campus

5.30pm, NUS Bukit Timah Campus Register at Enquiries: Ms Wendy Ng at

U@live featuring Mr K Shanmugam

Steve Jobs S TA N FO R D U N I V E R S I T Y, 2 0 0 5

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition... Stay hungry, Stay foolish.”

H A R VA R D U N I V E R S I T Y, 2 0 07

“But humanity’s greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity. Whether through democracy, strong public education, quality healthcare, or broad economic opportunity, reducing

inequity is the highest human achievement.”

Senior Alumni Tea and Chat

4pm, Shaw Foundation Alumni House Enquiries: Ms Irene See at


Feature Flicks: The Avengers

7.30pm, Shaw Foundation Alumni House Register at Enquiries: Ms Veronica Au at

7.30pm, Shaw Foundation Alumni House Register at Enquiries: Ms Valerie Vincent at



NUS Alumni Leaders Forum


Bill Gates



4pm, Shaw Foundation Alumni House Enquiries: Ms Irene See at

Michael Dell

gifts to each other, and my own growth as a leader has shown me again and again that the most rewarding experiences come from my relationships.”


Senior Alumni Tea and Chat

U N I V E R S I T Y O F T E X A S , 2 0 03

it’s called family, friends, and community. We are all



J K Rowling

BEGINNING “Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people or find a different room. In professional circles it’s called networking. In organizations it’s called team building. And in life


Feature Flicks: Les Miserables

7.30pm, Shaw Foundation Alumni House Register at Enquiries: Ms Veronica Au at


9am, Shaw Foundation Alumni House Enquiries: Ms Wendy Ng at


U@live featuring Mr Laurence Lien

7.30pm, Shaw Foundation Alumni House Register at Enquiries: Ms Valerie Vincent at



Senior Alumni Tea and Chat

Alumni Day @ Kent Ridge



7.30pm, Shaw Foundation Alumni House Register at Enquiries: Ms Veronica Au at


4pm, NUS University Town Register at Enquiries: Ms Veronica Au at

U@live featuring Mr Tan Min-Liang

7.30pm, Shaw Foundation Alumni House Register at Enquiries: Ms Valerie Vincent at

4pm, Shaw Foundation Alumni House Enquiries: Ms Irene See at

Feature Flicks: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

NUS Alumni Office - AlumNUS Magazine Jul  

AlumNUS magazine, Jul - Sep 2013.