Mr Geoffrey Yu (’69) is a pioneer in many ways.
He was part of the first batch of students admitted into the Department of Sociology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), National University of Singapore (NUS).
He graduated with the pioneer class in Sociology, with First Class Honours.
While he is no stranger to giving, he took a big step forward where others were hesitant.
Mr Yu made a bequest to his alma mater: the Geoffrey Yu Bursary will benefit financially-needy Sociology students at FASS. In addition, his gift will also allow the Department of Sociology to expand research work, organise conferences and support publications on the study of Singapore society.
“I cannot take the money with me when I die,” Mr Yu declared matter-of-factly, before breaking into laughter.
Hailing from a line of scholars in China, the refined gentleman was brought up in a culture where respect for education and continuous learning are customary, and duty and obligation expected.
He spent most of his professional life in the Singapore Civil Service as well as with the United Nations, retiring as Deputy Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organisation. Of his long years in the UN, he sees himself as being part of a brother- and sisterhood of people coming together for the larger good. During that time, he witnessed first hand the poverty and plight of deprived people while travelling to many countries. Living away from Singapore for an extended period of time also sharpened his sense of awareness of being a member of an ethnic minority in those foreign communities.
“In a way, I see financially-deprived students in Singapore as a minority in our society today too and I would like to help them in whatever way I can.”
His desire to advance research on Singapore society stems from a profound appreciation, from his undergraduate days, of the rich diversity of our society.
“Singapore has the unique challenge of forging a national identity out of a complex mix of ethnicities, languages, cultures. This historical mix is now enriched by the openness of our world view and economy in the new century. I hope to encourage more students to pursue the study of sociology; not just to approach it academically, but also to ruminate on their own role in society. Additionally, I hope to facilitate the sharing of such knowledge through conferences and public lectures to spur more public discourse in this area,” added Mr Yu.
Looking back on his diverse career and philanthropic journey, Mr Yu urges students today to have:
“greater empathy for those around you and in society, and to remember that empathy is different from sympathy. When you empathise, you put yourself in others’ shoes, and in this way develop a better understanding of their real predicament and needs. In turn, this will enable you to contribute, however modestly, to making lives more hopeful and meaningful.”