“The Sea of Galilee is teeming with life because it receives water from one source and gives water to another. All water, however, stops in the Dead Sea, and nothing lives. We can choose to be the sea that gives life,” muses Mr Sonny Yuen (Business ’85), NUS Business School alumni, President of the NUS Business School Alumni Association and President of the Raffles Hall Association.
So, like the Sea of Galilee, as a recipient of the Tan Lark Sye Bursary, Mr Yuen made it his passion to create the ripples of impact through giving back to the University in many ways.
“Paying it forward is significant to me because I have received amazing kindness from strangers,” explains Mr Yuen.
Hailing from Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, Mr Yuen lived in a poor kampong area with his father, who was a foreman in a factory, his housewife mother, two sisters and a brother. Hardship hit the family when Mr Yuen was studying for his ‘O’ levels. His father became bedridden due to a weakening heart with defective valves and had to be flown to Auckland, New Zealand, the nearest place where he could get the appropriate treatment at the time. To raise money for the surgery, the family used every platform available to them – the school, the church, the newspapers and even appealing to the whole kampong. Before long, money started pouring in from strangers.
“I can never forget how people just came to help. I even had schoolmates who I do not know approach me and give me their lunch money; 10, 20 cents. It may have been little, but it meant so much to me. The collective effort of a community allowed my father to take the next step in his medical treatment and undergo that critical surgery. He lived many more years after that,” Mr Yuen recounts gratefully.Because his father’s surgery fell on the day of his examination, he did poorly in the Bahasa Malaysia paper and failed his ‘O’ levels. But Mr Yuen did not regret repeating the year as he managed to get good results eventually and became the only one from his family to go to NUS.
The founding director of JonDavidson, an executive search firm, subsequently supported his two younger siblings’ university education in Australia.
“I am grateful I got the opportunity to study at the Business School, made a lot of good friends and even met my wife at Raffles Hall,” shares Mr Yuen, whose wife, Wong Lai Ping (’87), studied Accounting in NUS. The President of the Raffles Hall Association is a veteran at running fundraising golf events for student bursaries.
He also took charge of the Annual Bizad Charity Run in 2013, which raises funds for financially disadvantaged NUS Business undergraduates, as well as a selected charity every year.
A former NUSBSA Bursary recipient, Ms Julianti Ng (’11) volunteers at NUSBSA. She shares, “I am grateful for the financial assistance that I received back when I was a student. I started as the treasurer for Bizad Charity Run 2013, then continued on as an assistant-treasurer and now an auditor for the NUSBSA. I hope more students and young alumni could be involved and feel proud to be part of the NUSBSA.”
Today, Mr Yuen has three children, one of whom is a medical student in NUS.
So what drives this untiring man, who is still an active managing director of his firm, a committed member of his church, has many books in his Kindle to read, and enjoys playing golf?
Mr Yuen reveals, “I believe in an honest day’s work. That’s how I teach my children. Diligence is undervalued these days. And when I remember what others have done for me, there is no hesitation. I must pass it forward.”