Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

At the NUS site of his old college, Mr Lee Kuan Yew still touches lives

Mr Lee remembered for deep interest in, and contributions to, education

Medical student Koh Shi Min, 23, has never met Mr Lee Kuan Yew personally, but it is one of his charitable initiatives that has allowed her to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor.

The daughter of a taxi-driver father and a supermarket sales-promoter mother had applied for medical school at the National University of Singapore (NUS) after completing her diploma at Singapore Polytechnic in 2012.

"I was accepted into medical school, but the course fees were much higher than other courses and I was worried about it," she said.

But with her excellent grades, she managed to get the Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship to Encourage Upgrading Award, which is given to polytechnic students pursuing a full-time degree in universities here.

"Without the scholarship, I might have given up my dream of becoming a doctor and chosen other courses instead," Ms Koh said.

The scholarship was made possible as the late Mr Lee had donated sale proceeds from the autographed version of the second volume of his memoirs.

Ms Koh was one of the more than 1,000 students, staff and faculty members of NUS who went to the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy yesterday afternoon to give their condolences to the family of Singapore's first Prime Minister.

Mr Lee died early Monday morning at the age of 91, after being hospitalised for more than a month for pneumonia.

The memorial ceremony at NUS' Bukit Timah campus started with a video screening of the man and his achievements.

At the event, NUS president Tan Chorh Chuan said it was fitting for the university to pay tribute to Mr Lee at the very place where he had studied and met his wife in the 1940s.

The Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy now stands where Singapore's first tertiary education institution, Raffles College, used to be. Mr Lee and his wife were both former students of Raffles College. NUS had named its public policy school after Mr Lee in 2004 to honour his contributions to education in Singapore.

Prof Tan remembers a meeting he had with Mr Lee about 15 years ago. Then, Prof Tan was in charge of coordinating a presentation on biomedical sciences research at NUS to Mr Lee. "When the presentation started, Mr Lee did not ask very much about the science or the projects. Instead, he asked the professors and presenters, 'Where did you come from?', 'Where did you study?', 'Why are you doing your research here and not somewhere else?'"

The reason for Mr Lee doing this became clear to Prof Tan later on. "Biomedical sciences is an area that relies on having the right type of talent. And the question really is, would you be able to attract quality... individuals that you need," he said.

leepearl@sph.com.sg