SINGAPORE - As a student in Catholic High School's graduating class in 1969, Mr Lee Hsien Loong was put in charge of the school magazine.
The job was not easy, as Mr Lee, then 18, had to look for advertisements and persuade fellow students to contribute articles which he then had to edit and typeset.
But guided by their principal Brother Joseph Dufresse, they successfully published the magazine, Prime Minister Lee recalled at a dinner at the Fairmont Hotel yesterday to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the school's founding.
Mr Lee joined more than 1,500 old boys in catching up with old friends and former teachers as they reminisced about their school days.
He noted that his alma mater had been preserved and transformed in the decades since he graduated.
Its old Queen Street campus has been converted into the Singapore Art Museum's 8Q annex, and the school has moved to Bishan. But for old boys, memories remain.
Mr Lee told guests that when he visited the 8Q building earlier this year, he went to his old third-floor classroom: "The corridors and staircases looked the same as before... We spent many happy hours there and for a little while I was back there, 13 years old, Secondary 1."
Now, a new junior college is being built for students in the Joint Integrated Programme, in partnership with CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School and Singapore Chinese Girls' School. Mr Lee said he was glad the school continues to stay relevant "because the world is not static, and the graduates you produce must keep up with the times".
But what has not changed is Catholic High's emphasis on values and character development, he added.
The school has produced leaders in fields from politics and business to education and culture because it is anchored on these values, he noted.
"That's timeless and essential, and something we want more Singapore schools to do more of," he said.
In doing so, students "will not only be book-smart, but will grow up to be citizens of good character who will contribute to society and serve fellow Singaporeans".
The school has also retained an emphasis on bilingualism, he noted.
Mr Lee also launched a series of 12 illustrated books in Chinese titled Growing Up Years, produced by a group of Secondary 2 students.
Principal Magdalen Soh said these were given to all primary schools to encourage younger pupils to read in Chinese and make learning the language more fun.