She was the wife of one of Singapore’s founding fathers, but Madam Alice Goh (1925-2012) preferred to serve as unobtrusively as possible. A social worker for almost 30 years, Madam Goh, who later separated from her husband Dr Goh Keng Swee, was known as a quiet, steady person and an able administrator who dedicated her life to children’s welfare. Her motto was “Every child is special; every child is God’s gift”. Alice Goh worked ceaselessly towards a better quality of life for her “little ones” and had an abiding interest in social work at various levels throughout her life.
Her giving spirit and sterling values will be bequeathed to a new generation of students with the establishment of the Alice Goh Scholarship at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Department of Social Work at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. The endowed Scholarship fund was set up with gifts from Madam Goh’s family, friends and well-wishers. The Scholarship will benefit two deserving students who need financial assistance annually – one Undergraduate student and one Master student – starting from Academic Year 2013/2014.
Dr Rosaleen Ow, Head, Department of Social Work, said, “The Alice Goh Scholarship is a timely response to the current need to increase the number of social workers to meet the needs of enhancing social development in the country. It is in tandem with the Singapore government’s support for the training of professional social workers in the social service sector. The Department of Social Work, NUS, continues to play a pivotal role in the training of social workers from its inception in 1952. Many of its graduates have become leaders in the public and social service sectors, including a Past President of Singapore, current and former Members of Parliament and Nominated Members of Parliament as well as senior management in the civil service and statutory boards. The Alice Goh Scholarship will therefore provide significant encouragement to Social Work students in NUS to excel both in classroom learning and in translating the knowledge towards contributing to the community through practice.”
A pioneer of children’s social centres in Singapore, Madam Goh is remembered as a quiet but popular figure. Ann Wee, a social work veteran who worked with her in the Social Welfare Department, says, “There was nothing arrogant about her. It was always a pleasure to stop by and chat with her. She was also trusted. People would say, ‘It’s alright. That’s being handled by Mrs Goh’.” During her time at the Social Welfare Department, Madam Goh was in charge of childcare centres to tackle, among other responsibilities, the problem of malnutrition among children.
Born in 1925, Madam Goh (née Woon) married Dr Goh in 1942 when she was 17 and he 24. The two met while working at the War Tax Department. For the next 44 years, until their separation in 1986, she supported his illustrious career as he went from Minister of Finance in the first PAP Cabinet (1959-65) to Deputy Prime Minister in 1973.
Students can apply for the Alice Goh Scholarship in June 2013.