“Paying it forward”, the latest in the Greater Good Series events organised by the National University of Singapore (NUS), brought to life the concept of the circle of giving through the stories of the late Tan Sri (Dr) Tan Chin Tuan, as told by his granddaughter Ms Chew Gek Hiang (’86), and Mr Lee Kok Wah (’69).
Professor Phoon Kok Kwang, Vice Provost (Academic Personnel), opened the discussion by sharing that NUS was “founded by the local community to serve the local community.” Over 100 years later, in addition to offering a world class education, NUS is committed to ensuring its students give back to the community.
Ms Chew, council member of the Tan Chin Tuan Foundation, recounted that her grandfather, the late banker and philanthropist Tan Sri (Dr) Tan Chin Tuan, almost had to leave school in his teenage years after having failed his Junior Cambridge exams, which coincided with his father’s sudden death and funeral. However, he was able to get back on track and complete his studies because of his school principal and teachers who, believing in his potential, personally tutored and mentored him.
Tan Sri (Dr) Tan realised that education was key to achieving success in life. Without an education or the support of committed educators who took interest in his development and helped him during those difficult times, he would not have made it this far in life. As such, the Foundation he founded in 1976 continues to support mainly educational causes and help others achieve their potential, so they can in turn contribute to society.
Mr Lee was one of nine children who knew great poverty growing up. He was fortunate to have received a scholarship and a bursary from Tan Sri (Dr) Tan that allowed him to complete both his secondary and university educations. Mr Lee also had the honour of meeting his benefactor on several occasions. “He was a different kind of philanthropist. He cared for the people he gave to and he followed up with them,” he explained.
Today, Mr Lee has set up a bursary at NUS and made a gift towards cancer research. “My message to younger people is do not wait too long. It does not have to be big money. To give to others; to share what you have is more important,” he shared.
Ms Chew closed the event by saying, “We hope we have inspired people to feel they can make a difference and do something positive for society. We hope they experience the same joy we’ve had through helping others.”
The NUS Greater Good Series features talks by leading minds on topics related to philanthropy. These include generosity, giving and service to the community, as well as leadership, personal well-being and mental resilience. The Series aims to raise awareness of philanthropy and its impact on society. The Series was made possible thanks to a generous gift from Newsman Realty Pte Ltd.
For further information on the NUS Greater Good Series, contact the Events team at email@example.com.
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