67-year-old former banker is now a master - of gerontology

Mr Thia rose to become managing director of big players like Morgan Grenfell (Asia) and Merrill Lynch International Bank. He retired at 42, but became interested in healthcare when he was chairman of Mount Alvernia Hospital.
Mr Thia rose to become managing director of big players like Morgan Grenfell (Asia) and Merrill Lynch International Bank. He retired at 42, but became interested in healthcare when he was chairman of Mount Alvernia Hospital.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

When Mr George Thia went back to school to study gerontology, he surprised even himself.

"I thought to myself, wow, to sit down listening, absorbing and paying attention at my age might be difficult," said the 67-year-old, one of SIM University's newest graduates last week.

The former merchant banker scaled the financial world to be managing director of big players like Morgan Grenfell (Asia) and Merrill Lynch International Bank. He retired at 42, but his retirement did not last long.

"I got bored, so I did advisory work in finance and planning, focusing on business and family assets, and in the media, education and healthcare spaces," he said.

STAYING FOCUSED

The biggest challenge was about exercising self-discipline, time management and staying focused to read, absorb and study. After you've been through a certain age, you don't really want to study for exams.

MR GEORGE THIA, on his biggest challenge in hitting the books again.

"I also spent time doing voluntary work at my school's old boys' association and other charities." He is an alumnus of St Joseph's Institution.

Mr Thia, who has sat on the board of public-listed companies around the region over the last 20 years, grew his interest in healthcare during his role as chairman of Mount Alvernia Hospital, from 2010 to 2014.

Over the last 18 years, he has also sat on the board of trustees of the National Cancer Centre.

When he found out that eldercare was a course he could take up at UniSIM, "it became an easy option for me", he said.

He found the Master of Gerontology programme enriching. "There was a lot of interaction and sharing," he said.

"They (the students) are people who work in healthcare or eldercare, so it's about sharing life experiences and not just about what you learn in the textbook."

Gerontology Professor Kalyani Mehta, 68, said Mr Thia "speaks from his own life experience that is very authentic".

"There is a lot of learning that takes place because of students who are from different generations and backgrounds."

Said Mr Thia: "The biggest challenge was about exercising self-discipline, time management and staying focused to read, absorb and study. After you've been through a certain age, you don't really want to study for exams."

Rahimah Rashith

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2016, with the headline '67-year-old former banker is now a master - of gerontology'. Print Edition | Subscribe