The importance of strong alumni support for a university’s success and growth has been in the news of late. At a gathering of alumni hosted in July by NUS and graduate club, NUSS, Mr Lee Kuan Yew compared the strong tradition of alumni giving at US universities with that in the UK, where a university education has traditionally been seen as government responsibility. He said, “In recent years, British universities have tried to revise the system by following the American tradition….” which “is a move in the right direction”.
Helen Yeo, ex-Managing Partner at law firm Rodyk & Davidson, currently Senior Consultant, would agree. An alumna of the NUS Faculty of Law, Ms Yeo recently set up the Helen Yeo Bursary, inspired by the philanthropy of US alumni. She says, “My life-long choice has been to support the less privileged. Giving back to my alma mater was never at the top of my priorities because it is the country’s duty to educate her citizens well. But in 2005, when visiting US universities, the philanthropy by their alumni impressed me. I knew then that instead of the infrequent donations to NUS, I would, one day, make a larger gift to my alma mater.”
The Helen Yeo Bursary, which will be awarded to four law students every year for the next 10 years, is in keeping with Ms Yeo’s belief in helping those in need. She says, “The Bursary will also give back to our education system to provide new generations of students with the opportunities I had that led to a fulfilling career and put me in a position to help people.”
As a child, Ms Yeo was “constantly reminded to do good works” at home and at school. Her 85-year-old mother still volunteers at two old-age homes and churches and Ms Yeo used to encourage lawyers at her firm to engage in volunteer work by incorporating it into their appraisal forms. And in fact, her passion for law was ignited only after a stint at the Legal Aid Bureau while she was in her Third Year. She says, “Law was something I drifted into. For the first three years at law school, I regretted it. Then, as part of an optional undergraduate programme, I did five weeks of attachment at the Legal Aid Bureau and it dramatically changed my view. I could see how law actually helps people. The part of law that I get passionate about, is solving problems for people. I am a pragmatic person who likes finding solutions, be it for people in trouble or corporate heads furthering legitimate commercial interests.”
The Bursary will be solving some problems for students like Loo Ee Ting May, a Year 2 student, and Toh Jun Yong, a Year 4 student.
May is one of four children. Her mother passed away when she was six and her father drives a taxi. She says, “I feel very grateful that I get to go to university and secure some financial stability for the future and to receive help so readily from the school to help offset my school fees. I would like Ms Yeo to know that her philanthropic act will really change my life.”
Jun Yong, whose father is the sole breadwinner of the family of four, says, “I feel relieved to receive the Bursary. It will help me pay for my course fees and text books. I will also be able to spend more time on my studies instead of looking for tuition assignments to earn money.”
Gifts such as this play a critical role in the opportunities that NUS offers its students, be it financial aid or student programmes. As NUS President, Prof Tan Chorh Chuan has said, “NUS is very fortunate to receive strong government support. But, for NUS to go beyond being a good university, to be a leading global university, NUS can only do this through the generous support of our benefactors.”
For more information on making a gift to NUS, please call Ms Ho Yuen Kwan at 6516 5755 or email firstname.lastname@example.org