The NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) launched the Maurice Baker Scholarship and the Maurice Baker Prize on 8 December 2009. Aimed at grooming literary scholars, the Scholarship and Prize are named after Dr Maurice Baker, an eminent NUS alumnus and one of Singapore’s first-generation diplomats. The Scholarship and Prize are funded by the Maurice Baker Fund. To-date, it had raised close to S$140,000 and it will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Singapore government.
Dr Baker’s former students Chairman of Temasek Holdings, Mr S Dhanabalan and NUS Emeritus Prof Edwin Thumboo as well as Dean of FASS, Prof Tan Tai Yong and Head of the NUS Department of English Language and Literature, Assoc Prof Robbie Goh, attended the event to mark the launch of the Scholarship and Prize.
The Maurice Baker Scholarship, valued at S$10,000 per year, will offer financial support to one deserving full-time Singaporean or Singapore permanent resident graduate student enrolled in the PhD or the Masters of Arts by research programme in the NUS Department of English Language and Literature. The first scholarship will be awarded in the academic year starting August 2010.
As for the Maurice Baker Prize, it will be granted to the best graduate in the Department of English Language and Literature and who has achieved sufficient academic merit. The inaugural Prize is expected to be awarded in July 2010 when the current academic year ends.
When asked about his advice to students interested in a career in literary studies, Dr Baker said: “Well you see, the concentration nowadays is for science and engineering. In the United States, students who do science or engineering are compelled to do a year in humanities. So we think that there should be encouragement for those who want to continue in literature and language.” He added that the Scholarship and Prize were set up so as to encourage the studies of the humanities.
Reminiscing on his time as a student, Emeritus Prof Thumboo said: “I had a good fortune of being taught by Maurice. He made literature fun, taking us into the heart, core and soul of a text. At the same time, he didn’t make learning heavy, dull, boring.” He added: “Perhaps his most enduring gift to us was his presence. We knew he was always there for us. I am one among a large number, who owe him a personal debt of gratitude. Without him, I would not have joined the Department of English in 1966.”
Dr Baker graduated from Raffles College in 1941. He became the first Singaporean to head the English Department at the University of Singapore in 1972 and was NUS Pro-Chancellor from1989 to 2002. In 1981, he was conferred an Honorary Doctor of Laws by NUS. As a diplomat, Dr Baker served as Singapore’s High Commissioner to Nepal, India and Malaysia and Ambassador to the Philippines.
Dean of FASS Prof Tan said: “On behalf of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Department of English Language and Literature, we would like to express our deepest appreciation to Dr Maurice Baker for his valuable contributions in building a strong foundation for the Department during the early years, and now in encouraging more students to take up graduate studies in English Language and Literature. We would also like to thank Professor Edwin Thumboo who had worked tirelessly to make this a reality. The Scholarship and Prize will go a long way in cultivating a vibrant literary arts scene in Singapore.”
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