FASS90 GALA DINNER | Looking Back, Pressing Forward

NUS FASS marked its 90th anniversary, the Dean delivered a strong performance on stage, and Guest of Honour Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower, called for further government-academia collaboration on public policy.

From its beginnings in 1929 as part of Raffles College offering three-year diplomas in English, Economics, History and Geography, to its position today as a global top 20 provider of higher education in the Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences & Management, the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) has come a long way.

Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister of Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs, talked about the ways academia can help drive public policy and called for their greater collaboration with the government.Photo Credit: Ministry of Manpower

The Dean of FASS, Professor Robbie Goh, referenced this journey during his opening address at FASS 90th Anniversary Gala Dinner on Friday (15 November 2019) evening. “FASS began life…with the four founding majors of English, History and Geography. Its inaugural intake was 43 students,” said Professor Goh. “Fast forward 90 years…FASS takes in about 1,600 undergraduate students each, has 16 departments offering 20 majors, [and so far can count] among its alumni – a President, a Prime Minister, several Ministers and ambassadors, and other top civil servants of Singapore, along with notable CEOs, entrepreneurs, well-known actors, musicians and others who have contributed much to the world.”

Professor Goh performed for all supporters of FASS’s fundraising efforts.

Professor Goh proceeded to share details of initiatives and programmes already underway at NUS FASS with close to 300 alumni, staff, students and other supporters who packed the Empress Ballroom at Carlton Hotel in downtown Singapore to celebrate the Faculty’s 90th anniversary. These included the launch of: a new major under the Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) programme; joint and double degree programmes with overseas partners (the latest being the University of California, Berkeley); the FASS Social Incubator Programme, which sees to the provision of seed money to students working on innovative solutions to social work issues; and the “Industry Tracks” programme, which seeks to enhance the employability of FASS graduates by giving them the training, guidance and experience they need to succeed in the key industry segments most likely to hire them.

Assembled to cut FASS’s 90th Birthday cake (from left): Professor Goh; Professor Ho; Emeritus Professor Edwin Thumboo; Mr Archie Ong; Mrs Tan Suan Imm; Mr Soh Yi Da; Ms Zoey Lim, President, NUS Students’ Arts and Social Sciences Club.

Guest of Honour Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister of Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs, a FASS alumnus herself, shared the Government’s current approaches to helping ensure Singapore’s ageing population have sufficient funds to retire comfortably. She cited some of the major contributions the academic community has made to Central Provident Fund (CPF) policy to date, and called for further Government-academia collaboration in specific areas of research and public communications. Among her suggestions are programmes that seek to answer questions such as: How can it be ensured that the Basic Retirement Sum (BRS) of each CPF member is sufficient to cover basic expenses in the future?; How can the Government increase understanding of and promote take-up of schemes meant to enable retirees to supplement their incomes by making use of their HDB apartments?; How can older workers be incentivised to start their payouts later, so they will have higher payouts when they eventually retire?

Professor Ho Teck Hua, Senior Deputy President and Provost, NUS, sealed the FASS Leapfrog Time Capsule.

“We can make our system better through constantly looking over the horizon and planning ahead. In that sense, the CPF must remain a ‘live system’, always evolving and ever-responsive to emerging needs,” Mrs Teo said. “We hope that the academic and social science research community can join us to make it better.”Immediately following a dazzling Malay dance performance by dance group NUS Ilsa Tari, came students Wesley Wang (Year 2 Linguistics Major) and Nediva Singam (Year 4 Geography Major) sharing their experiences and lessons learnt during their respective turns in overseas exchange study programmes. They spoke in support of the launch of the new FASS Student Advancement Fund that extends further financial support for needy students.

NUS Ilsa Tari in perfect form

The proceeds of the Gala Dinner went directly to this fund, and the generosity of all donors so moved Professor Goh that he dedicated his rendition of James Taylor’s classic You’ve Got a Friend and the timeless hymn by John Newton, Amazing Grace to them. The audience returned his gesture not just with heartfelt applause.

Professor Goh, Professor Ho Teck Hua, Senior Deputy President and Provost, NUS, Singapore’s legendary poet Emeritus Professor Edwin Thumboo, illustrious Singapore educator and alumnus Mrs Tan Suan Imm, and, distinguished alumni Archie Ong and Soh Yi Da, who played key roles on the FASS 90 Gala Dinner Committee, came together to cut FASS’s 90th birthday cake.

Vernon Cornelius (of the Quests from 1960s Singapore) and his band in action

The climax of the event was the sealing of the FASS Leapfrog Time Capsule in commemoration of FASS’s 90th Anniversary. Professors Goh and Ho placed items representing the Deanery, every department, alumni, student body, along with the day’s edition of The Straits Times into the time capsule, which they set to reopen in 2079 on the occasion of FASS’s 150th anniversary. Professor Ho then sealed it by pressing a virtual button on an iPad, setting off confetti and cheers from everyone.

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