Francis Chen, architect of the Association for Persons with Special Needs, dies

SINGAPORE - The emeritus president and pioneer founding member of the Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN), Dr Francis C. Chen, died on Thursday (Oct 6).

Dr Chen was also a former National University of Singapore medical faculty member who taught neurophysiology.

Colleagues described him as a kind and intelligent man who had an unwavering passion for supporting people with special needs.

A statement by APSN on Saturday (Oct 8) called Dr Chen the architect of the association.

"He (was the architect of) the modern approach to mildly intellectual and special needs education, while at the same time nurturing allied healthcare practitioners regionally through the Asian Federation of Intellectual Disabilities," said Dr Victor Tay, President of APSN.

Dr Chen was an "irreplaceable pillar of institutional memory at APSN", Dr Tay added.

In 1976, APSN was then known as the Association for Educationally Subnormal Children (AESN) with just one school - the APSN Katong School - under its wing, with little to no funding or support from any Government bodies.

"Dr Chen was there from the beginning, raising funds and establishing curriculums and frameworks for the association, to building APSN from its humble beginnings to where it stands today," the association's statement said.

Now 40 years later, APSN runs four special education schools as well as a student care centre and a centre for adults.

In 2006, Dr Chen was given The Public Service Star - a medal given to people who have rendered valuable public service to the people of Singapore and who have distinguished themselves in the field of arts and letters, sports, the sciences, business, the professions and the labour movement.

Ms Tina Hung, deputy chief executive officer of the National Council of Social Service said Dr Chen was always ready to contribute his talent and knowledge to the special needs sector.

"In the two decades I had the privilege of working with him, I have known him to be a soft spoken but avid champion for persons with intellectual disability," she said.

"In particular, Dr Chen cared deeply about the education of children and youth with intellectual disability and was always ready to contribute his ideas to the special needs sector."