Ms Siong Siew Oon, an 87-year-old retired school teacher, has lived in a historic shophouse off Emerald Hill for over 80 years. She now plans to bequeath her share of the house to the National University of Singapore (NUS) to fund a study award in honour of her father, the late Mr Siong Keng Hoon.
“My father worked very hard for us. He brought us up very well. I had a very happy childhood. I am doing this as I want to remember him and show respect. This was our family home and I have many happy memories here,” explains Ms Siong.
Her father, Mr Siong Keng Hoon, was a school friend of Lee Kong Chian who would later become a prominent businessman and philanthropist. Mr Siong left China for Singapore at the age of 18 with his great uncle to find his fortune.
After working for his uncle’s lumber yard, and then in the post office, Mr Siong set up a shipping company: Hoe Aik Steamships Ltd. Mr Siong brought his wife to Singapore from China in 1917 and together they raised ten children.
Ms Siong’s legacy gift to NUS will fund a study award for students at Yale-NUS College, Singapore’s first liberal arts college. “I believe in education. My father believed in education. His parents died young so he did not have the chance to go to university. My education was interrupted by the Japanese invasion and I did not go to college, although I obtained my teaching diploma,” she says.
The study award will give preference to Singaporean students interested in Chinese studies. “I regret never learning Chinese. My father said he would teach us but he never had the time. After I qualified as a teacher, I decided to learn and started attending night classes,” shares Ms Siong.
In recognition of Ms Siong’s generous gift to Yale-NUS, NUS plans to name a room at the College after her father.