Mr John Tan learnt about giving very early on in life. One of Mr Tan’s earliest memories was of writing cheques for his father. The cheques were often for societies for the blind or medically ill. Mr Tan’s father used to donate half his income every month to charitable causes.
Today, Mr Tan is the Group Chief Executive of reinsurance group ACR Capital Holdings Pte Ltd and has made a gift to support Yale-NUS College (Yale-NUS). When asked what motivated his philanthropic gesture, he explains, “With a father who led by example, I grew up just assuming that giving back was the normal thing to do. I was lucky to have had many opportunities as a child, but one cannot just receive all the time. It became a lifelong aspiration of mine to give back to society within my means and to continue my father’s tradition and fulfill what he would like to see me do.”
His gift will support the J Y Pillay Global Asia Programme at the College, which includes two J Y Pillay Distinguished Professorships and a J Y Pillay Fellowship. Explaining his decision to support Singapore’s first liberal arts college, he says, “A close friend asked me to support the College through a gift. I was very encouraged to learn that there is this excellent platform for Singapore’s young to receive quality education from home, instead of having to travel overseas for it, and wanted to contribute to expanding this access through the Yale-NUS College. I am a strong believer in the role of quality education in enriching the lives of our young and that everyone should have access to such opportunities, no matter their personal circumstances.”
Mr Tan does not limit his philanthropy to a single cause or segment of society but he does have a special spot in his heart for education, which he says is “the future of society”. Elaborating on this and what he hopes the College will offer, he says, “Our education system has to improve and evolve over time. As globalisation extends its reach, it becomes increasingly important to become skilled at crossing boundaries and adapting to new environments while thinking critically and analytically. I hope that Yale-NUS students will keep an open mind, appreciate the opportunities that come their way and pursue what they are most passionate about.”
He hopes that his three children will carry on this tradition. “I never forced them onto certain careers paths or directed their life decisions, but what I did do, hopefully, was to open their eyes very early on in life to the challenges and hardships faced by some in society. Growing up, they used to visit and help out at orphanages and homes for the aged. I hope that they continue to serve society even when they have busy careers.”
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