The National University of Singapore (NUS) honoured the achievements of 21 outstanding members of its alumni community at the prestigious NUS Alumni Awards 2019. The Eminent Alumni Award was conferred on two esteemed recipients – Former Chief Justice Dr Chan Sek Keong, who is also Pro-Chancellor of NUS, and former top civil servant and former Pro-Chancellor of NUS Mr Ngiam Tong Dow.
Held biennially by the NUS Office of Alumni Relations, the NUS Alumni Awards recognise alumni who have excelled locally and internationally, and have made significant contributions to the University and society. The Awards were presented in three categories, namely the Eminent Alumni Award, Distinguished Alumni Service Award and Outstanding Young Alumni Award.
NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye said, “We are delighted to honour 21 exceptional NUS alumni from diverse backgrounds – from the civil service to cinematic arts – who have served Singapore and the larger community with distinction. They embody the NUS values of innovation, resilience, excellence, respect and integrity, and are truly an inspiration to the NUS community. NUS is privileged to have been a part of their educational journey. We will continue to deliver a holistic, transformative and high quality education to our students, and we look forward to more trailblazing work and contributions from our alumni.”
Eminent Alumni Award Recipients
This year, the University is honoured to confer the Eminent Alumni Award on Dr Chan Sek Keong and Mr Ngiam Tong Dow. The Eminent Alumni Award is presented to NUS alumni who have distinguished themselves nationally or globally for their exceptional and sustained contributions and achievements in public and community service; in arts, sports, culture or entrepreneurship; or in a profession or scholarly field.
Dr Chan Sek Keong
Singapore’s former Chief Justice Dr Chan Sek Keong is a man of many firsts. He was from the first batch of law graduates from the then University of Malaya, a predecessor institution of NUS, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Laws Second Class Honours (Upper) in 1961; he was the first Singapore law graduate to be appointed Attorney-General of Singapore and subsequently the Chief Justice of Singapore; and he was also the first Singapore law graduate to be elected as Honorary Bencher of Lincoln’s Inn, England.
Dr Chan dedicated his working life to the law, and came to be regarded by his peers as one of Singapore’s and Asia’s most brilliant and respected judges. After a long and illustrious legal career spanning five decades – half of which was in public service (including as Singapore’s first Judicial Commissioner in 1986 and as a Judge of the Supreme Court in 1988) – Dr Chan retired as Singapore’s Chief Justice in 2012.
As a Judge, Dr Chan was well-known for his judicial temperament, and mastery of many areas of the law, as well as for his clear, accurate and succinct judgments. He firmly believed in the role of the judiciary as the guardians of the rule of law and justice for all.
As Attorney-General when he was appointed in 1992, he elevated and transformed the then relatively small Attorney-General’s Chambers into a strong and well-respected institution, in addition to numerous other significant changes to the legal system. Dr Chan’s enduring legacy includes the Application of English Law Act in 1993, which was enacted on his advice. This Act removed 167 years of uncertainty and confusion concerning the continuing application of English common law and statutes in Singapore, and more importantly, provided a fresh foundation for Singapore courts to develop Singapore law in line with the nation’s norms and values.
In 2006, Dr Chan was appointed Chief Justice, and he set a new direction in the apex court in constitutional adjudication of constitutional rights. He also played a major role in Singapore’s case in the Pedra Branca arbitration before the International Court of Justice where Singapore’s claim to sovereignty over the island was upheld.
In recognition of his professional contributions and dedication to service, he was conferred the Distinguished Service Order, and the Perak state award, Darjah Dato’ Seri Paduka Mahkota Perak (SPMP) (which carries the title Dato’ Seri) in 1999, and the Order of Temasek (Distinction) in 2008. In 2010, NUS conferred upon him an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
Even after his retirement as Chief Justice in 2012, he has remained active in the law as a Distinguished Fellow at the NUS Faculty of Law and regularly speaks with students. Earlier this month, he published a thoughtful article on constitutional law that ran to 72 pages and 190 footnotes.
Mr Ngiam Tong Dow
Former top civil servant Mr Ngiam Tong Dow was one of Singapore’s first civil servants. He began his career in the civil service on 1 August 1959, a few months after Singapore’s first cabinet was sworn in on 5 June.
Mr Ngiam rose through the ranks from a junior officer to become Singapore’s youngest ever Permanent Secretary at the age of 35. He dedicated 40 years of his life to Singapore’s public service, during which he was Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Ministries of Finance, Trade and Industry, National Development, and Communications. He was also one of the founding members of the National Wages Council, the Chairman of the Economic Development Board, Sheng-Li Holdings (now known as Singapore Technologies), the Development Bank of Singapore, Central Provident Fund Board, and the Housing and Development Board.
With his panoramic vision and leadership, Mr Ngiam was directly involved in policies that shaped Singapore and touched the lives of Singaporeans. He has helmed and served at organisations that oversee Singapore’s economy, defence technology, transportation, savings, retirement, and housing.
For his contributions, Mr Ngiam was conferred the Public Administration Medal (Gold) in 1971, the Meritorious Service Medal in 1978, the Long Service Award in 1995, and the Distinguished Service Order in 1999. In 2000, he was appointed NUS’ Pro-Chancellor, and went on to serve the University for 19 years, before stepping down in February 2019. He also chaired the NUS Centennial Campaign Advisory Board in 2003.
A believer in the importance of education and a compassionate society, Mr Ngiam has shared his expertise as an economist and a policy-maker through teaching at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at NUS, and has also provided his insights through talks at various University and Faculty events. To enable financially challenged students an equal opportunity to pursue their studies at NUS, Mr Ngiam and his family also established the Mr and Mrs Ngiam Fook Quee Scholarship in 2006, in honour of his parents.
Distinguished Alumni Service Award Recipients
The Distinguished Alumni Service Awards was conferred on six remarkable NUS alumni. Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister with the Prime Minister’s Office as well as Second Minister for Finance and Education, was one of the six outstanding NUS alumni who have distinguished themselves and demonstrated impact in their respective fields, as well as rendered excellent and sustained service to NUS, its predecessor institutions and/or the community.
The other five recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Service Awards were:
- Mr Herman Ronald Hochstadt, Former senior civil servant
- Professor Liew Mun Leong, Chairman, Changi Airport Group and Surbana Jurong Private Limited
- Emeritus Professor Lim Chong Yah, Economist and Academic
- Emeritus Professor Edwin Thumboo, Poet, Scholar, Academic Leader
- Mrs Ann Wee, Former Head of Social Work Department, NUS
Outstanding Young Alumni Award Recipients
Ten young alumni and a three-member team also received accolades at the awards ceremony this year. They were recognised with the Outstanding Young Alumni Award for their achievements and outstanding contributions to their chosen fields.
The award recipients were:
- Mr Jeremy Ee Jian Wen, NUS Alumni Advisory Board Member and NUS Day of Service Chairperson
- Ms Goh Yiping, Partner, Quest Ventures
- Ms Guan Dian, Co-Founder and Vice-President, PatSnap
- Dr Li Jingmei, Breast Cancer Researcher
- Dr Mustafa Izzuddin, Research Fellow, NUS Institute of South Asian Studies
- Mr Muhammad Shamir Bin Abdul Rahim, Founder and CEO, VersaFleet
- Ms Selly Amalina Muzammil, Regional Government Partnerships Officer, United Nations World Food Programme
- Mr Soh Yi Da, NUS Alumni Student Advancement Committee Member, and Assistant Vice President of Investor Relations, UOB
- Ms Kirsten Tan, Film Director
- Mr Veerappan Swaminathan, Founder, Sustainable Living Lab
- Team Award – Mr David Pong, Mr Lim Chong Tee, Mr Vincent Loka, Co-Founders, WateROAM