Mr Ngiam Tong Dow Top Civil Servant of Singapore, Beloved Supporter of NUS and FASS
The NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) is greatly saddened by the passing of Mr Ngiam Tong Dow on 20 August 2020 at the age of 83.
A prominent alumnus of the Faculty, Mr Ngiam graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics with First Class Honours in 1959. As a former civil servant of Singapore, Mr Ngiam contributed to Singapore’s economic development over four decades.
In recognition of his significant contributions to the Public Service, Mr Ngiam has been conferred various national public service awards, including the Public Administration Medal (Gold) in 1971, the Meritorious Service Medal in 1978 and the Distinguished Service Order in 1999.
Mr Ngiam was also actively engaged with the National University of Singapore (NUS). He had been serving as Pro-Chancellor of NUS since 2000 and was the Chairman of the NUS Centennial Campaign Advisory Board in 2003. Over and above his service to the NUS community, Mr Ngiam has also donated generously to university and FASS. In 2006, Mr Ngiam and his family across two generations established the Mr and Mrs Ngiam Fook Quee Memorial Scholarship in honour of their parents and grandparents who had migrated to Singapore from China in the last century with nothing but the determination to work hard and succeed.
FASS presented Mr Ngiam the FASS Distinguished Arts and Social Alumni Award in 2016 for his enormous contributions to Singapore’s nation-building efforts and his strong commitment to and support of the University and the Faculty. In 2019, NUS bestowed upon Mr Ngiam the prestigious NUS Eminent Alumni Award.
Mrs Ann Elizabeth Wee Associate Professorial Fellow NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Department of Social Work 1926 – 2019
Often described as the founding mother of social work education in Singapore, Mrs Ann Elizabeth Wee passed away in Singapore on 11 December 2019. She was 93 years of age.
Born on 19 August 1926 in Corbridge, United Kingdom, Mrs Wee arrived in Singapore in 1950 to be reunited with her fiancé whom she met at Cambridge. Mrs Wee’s career in social work spans six decades. After a four-year stint at the Methodist Girls’ School, Mrs Wee joined the Social Welfare Department in 1955. To better communicate with and advocate for her clients amongst low income families, she picked up Malay, Cantonese and Hokkien on the job. At the same time, Mrs Wee began part-time teaching at the then University of Malaya.
In 1957, Mrs Wee began teaching full-time at the Department of Social Work, and formally assumed headship of the Department in 1967, a role in which she served until her retirement in 1986. As the Department’s longest serving Head, Mrs Wee was the driving force behind the University’s decision to introduce a full-fledged Honours Degree programme, paving the way for social workers to be recognised as professionals, enjoy better career prospects, and gain access to policymaking. To impart her knowledge to future generations of social workers, Mrs Wee further co-authored and edited Social Work in the Singapore Context, the only textbook on social work in Singapore. In 2017, she published her memoir A Tiger Remembers: The Way We Were in Singapore, which chronicles her experiences in the Singapore of old.
Mrs Wee’s contributions extend beyond the academic sphere and she served on panels that traversed demographics and issues. In addition to being appointed on the Advisory Panel to the Juvenile Court for nearly four decades (1970 – 2009), Mrs Wee also served a term on the Tribunal for the Maintenance of Parents; as an advisor on women’s and girl’s issues with the Ministry of Social Affairs; on the board of governors of the National Youth Leadership Training Institute; and several other boards and committees.
Mrs Wee was bestowed with the Public Service Star in 1972, and again with the Public Service Star (Bar) in 2004. Inducted into the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame in 2014, Mrs Wee’s public awards further include The Most Outstanding MCYS Volunteer Award (2004), Meritorious Service Medal (2010), and NUSS Distinguished Member Award (2012). Notably, Mrs Wee was also the inaugural recipient of the Lifetime Volunteer Achievement Award, presented by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports in 2009. She was also conferred the FASS Distinguished Arts and Social Sciences Alumni Award and the NUS Distinguished Alumni Service Award in 2019 in recognition of her lifelong dedication and contribution to social service and education.
In celebration of Mrs Wee’s lasting contributions, the Department of Social Work established the Ann Wee NUS Social Work Alumni Award in 2014, during the Faculty’s 85th Anniversary celebrations. The latter award is presented in her honour by NUS to recognise excellence in social work.
Mrs Ann Wee is survived by her two daughters and 4 grandchildren.
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.
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 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.
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?
“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.
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 classicYou’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.
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.
On 20 February 2019, Mr Bilahari Kausikan (Arts and Social Sciences ’76) presented the complex and sometimes tense bilateral relations Singapore has with Malaysia and Indonesia, while concisely describing the importance of understanding Singapore’s rather different relationship with each.
Kausikan was candid when describing Singapore’s sovereignty, “The governments of our neighbours deal with Singapore as a sovereign nation because we have developed capabilities,” he said.
Bilateral Relations with Malaysia
Given recent public discussions over the deferment of the Singapore-KL high-speed rail, the Instrument Landing System (ILS) over Seletar Airport and the extension of Malaysia’s port limits into Singapore waters, it was no surprise that Singapore’s bilateral relations with Malaysia took centre stage during his lecture.
Mr Kausikan cautioned against assuming recent differing opinions were solely due to the surprise election of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government in Malaysia and the return of Dr Mahathir Mohamad as Prime Minister of Malaysia.
“We should not place too much emphasis for the current situation on PM Mahathir,” he said. “These are not new issues; they are very old issues … this is the fourth iteration.”
Mr Kausikan was optimistic the next generation of Singapore’s leadership is capable. In particular, he singled out Minister of Finance Heng Swee Keat, former Principal Personal Secretary to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Minister of Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing’s tenure as Chief of the Army. Their vast experiences can inform Singapore’s future foreign policies.
Bilateral Relations with Indonesia
Mr Kausikan emphasized that while Singapore’s relations with Malaysia and Indonesia are similar, there are some differences.
He highlighted Indonesia under President Joko Widodo’s administration is “much more interested in domestic issues (like) alleviating poverty and doing things for his own people, (concerning himself) with foreign policy only to the degree that it contributes to that.”
Since 2014, Singapore has been Indonesia’s largest foreign investor with US$8.4 billion in realised investments in 2017 alone. Cordial bilateral relations advance Indonesia’s domestic goals while allowing Singapore access to the largest economy in ASEAN. Both are among each other’s top trading partners and source of visitor arrivals.
Importance of Regional Cooperation
He emphasized putting aside differences and cooperating whenever possible throughout the discussion. When asked about the threat of cross-border terrorism by a member of the audience, he replied the security departments of the three countries collaborated closely to ensure safety. This was a good example of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia working together towards a common goal.
“The Malaysian Special Branch, the equivalent of our ISD, is extremely professional and cooperates closely with our security authorities” he said.
Later, he recounted a 2016 incident when Indonesian authorities arrested a group of militants planning to launch rockets towards Singapore from Batam, as an example of Indonesia-Singapore addressing cross-border terrorism.
Mr Kausikan stressed that Singapore “can cooperate with our neighbours, should cooperate, and in fact must cooperate” while safeguarding and advancing national interests.
About the Speaker
Bilahari Kausikan is Chairman of the Middle East Institute, NUS. From 2001 to 2013, he was first the second Permanent Secretary and then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). He was subsequently Ambassador-at-Large until May 2018, having previously served in various MFA appointments, including as the Deputy Secretary for Southeast Asia, the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York and as Ambassador to the Russian Federation.
FASS90 Political Science Lecture Series on the Practice of Foreign Affairs
This five part lecture series is organised by the NUS Political Science Society with support from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) and the Department of Political Science. Established in 1929, FASS, one of the earliest and largest faculties is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. Whilst witnessing numerous changes, we remain steadfast to our vision to strive forward as a premier faculty of excellence in humanities and social sciences that nurtures tomorrow’s engaged, thoughtful and creative global citizens. To mark this occasion, the Faculty is organising a series of events showcasing the strength and breadth of the Faculty’s research as well as kick start future initiatives that would benefit the generations of students who will come through our halls.
Making career decisions is never easy. To partner you in this decision making process, the Centre for Future-ready Graduates, together with the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences organized the “FASS Conversations: Design your Career” talk where questions were collated from you and your peers, categorized into 3 topics and addressed by the young Alumni:
Topic 1: Value of a FASS degree- Translating NUS experience for corporate success
Topic 2: Job Search Strategy
Topic 3: School to Workplace Transition
Young Alumni with experiences across the industries of Non Profit, Industry development, Marketing, Consulting, Public Relations and Tourism were present:
– Rachel, Assistant Manager, Resource Development and Communications at World Vision
– Shawn, Co-founder and Business Lead at Monocoque Service Design
– Soo Yee, Manager, Industry and Enterprise Development Group in F&B Services in SPRING Singapore
– Amanda, Senior Executive, Resort Marketing at Resorts World Sentosa
Those who were present valued the candid sharing from the young Alumni who spoke of the importance of acquiring experiences throughout their undergraduate years, being proactive to meet and speak with people from different backgrounds. Going on Student Exchange Programmes, securing local or overseas internships, participating in hall activities, CCAs and gaining volunteering experiences are just some examples of avenues where you can gain exposure to your fields of interest and acquire soft skills. One of the unique selling points of a FASS graduates are people and communication skills and ability to offer a different perspective on the issue at hand. This puts you in a better advantage in organizations where employees are required to work in teams or brainstorm ideas to creatively solve real world problems.
Some Alumni shared that it was a natural transition for them moving into their first job as things just fell in place nicely when they were searching for their first job. Having exposure to the industry and knowing people in the field greatly helped them in their decision making process and the transition. The Alumni present also candidly shared about the toughest interviews that they went through and emphasized on the importance of not only being prepared for the interview but also having the right attitude when presenting yourself to potential employers. Sharings on work culture, the make-up of colleagues in their work places and challenges faced in their roles gave the audience fresh insights on what to expect in the real working world. The Alumni were open and generous in their personal sharing and offered valuable tips. We look forward to organizing a subsequent installment of this well-received FASS Conversations talk!
To hear from HR Managers perspective on the topics covered, we invite you to the 3rd Instalment of the HR Perspectives – Recruitment Deciphered! Talk on 6 Apr, Wed, 4-6pm.
Take a glimpse into the “behind-the-scenes” process of job applications and understand from HR’s perspectives on what makes or breaks an application.
Actor-puppeteer Bright Ong made a pact with his parents, after graduating from university, that he could be financially independent as an actor in two years, but managed it in half the time by eating just one or two meals a day.
The 26 year old’s love for performing was ignited when he started acting in amateur productions at university, and was trained in theatre as a member of the Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT)’s The Young Company.