A motorbike ride set Mr Yeo Keng Joon (’85) and Ms Kong Yuet Peng (’86) on the road to marriage, a family and two successful careers. The couple was studying at the University of Malaya in the 1970s when Ms Kong, an active sportswoman, snapped the cartilage in her knee in an athletics competition. Her knight in shining armour appeared in the form of Mr Yeo who rushed Ms Kong to hospital on his trusty steed: his motorbike.
Today, the couple, who subsequently moved their family to Singapore in the 1980s to study for their MBAs at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School, is spearheading the NUS Campus Couples Bursary Fund. The Fund, part of the NUS Alumni Bursary Fund Campaign, an alumni-led initiative, appeals to couples who met on the NUS campus to help financially-disadvantaged students by supporting bursaries. Ms Kong explains, “We have a good family and marriage and have to be thankful. We would not have the situation we have now if we had not met on campus. We believe there are many more couples like us who also met on campus. With this Fund, we hope that we can raise money to help needy students.”
Both Mr Yeo, a corporate manager who is now semi-retired as an entrepreneur, and Ms Kong, an adjunct faculty member in SMU, have fond memories of their time at University, both in Malaysia and in Singapore. The couple were very involved in Hall activities, and as keen sportspeople, they often dined late after their daily games practices and competitions and stayed up socialising with friends. They also share a sense of fun. There were water fights between the boys’ and girls’ blocks in the Halls, “panty raids”, intense inter-Hall rivalries, and very often overzealous “ragging” during freshman orientation.
Fun and games aside, Mr Yeo and Ms Kong feel a university experience is an important rite of passage. Ms Kong explains, “University is about people and networking. It is about knowing people and building relationships.” A university education is also an important factor in social mobility. “I was the first in my extended family to go to university. At the time, it was a passport out of poverty. There is no shame to being poor. You can stand up and compete intellectually. And, with the right help, you know you can excel,” says Mr Yeo says.
Mr Yeo and Ms Kong’s passion for helping financially-disadvantaged students is partly shaped by the fact that they both received financial help with their education. Ms Kong would probably not have gone to university if it were not for the assistance of her brother. And, Mr Yeo was fortunate to receive financial support from school, a clan association and the federal government university bursary. “The financial support I received changed the course of my life. Without it, I would have struggled. I see a real need out there. Even though most people think Singapore is rich, many kids come from poor backgrounds and need financial support,” he shares.
And what do they hope the NUS Campus Couples Bursary Fund will achieve? “We hope it will help whoever needs financial help. Or make a difference so a student does not have to struggle or take on extra work. Instead, they can take part in extra-curricular activities and have a full university life,” says Ms Kong.
“We feel privileged. We all know we are what we are today because of our alma mater. We are giving back. Our primary objective is to raise money for needy students. We hope this giving will encourage past, present and future recipients to pay it forward,” concludes Mr Yeo.
Are you a campus couple? Would you like to support the NUS Campus Couples Bursary Fund? For more information about the NUS Campus Couples Bursary Fund, or to make a gift, please firstname.lastname@example.org.