Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

NTU pays tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who paid close attention to the development of the university

SINGAPORE - Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Deputy President and Provost Freddy Boey grew up in a zinc-roofed kampung house in Kolam Ayer which had no proper toilets.

There were many floods each year, and with each deluge came the stench of dead pigs and cows that had drowned.

Today, his children, grandchildren and fellow Singaporeans live in modern housing and have opportunities to upgrade.

Much of this, he said, is due to the leadership of Singapore's first Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Professor Boey delivered an emotional eulogy on Wednesday, and had to fight back his tears as he spoke.

More than 2,500 staff, students, alumni and faculty members packed the auditorium to pay tribute to Mr Lee, who died early on Monday morning after being hospitalised for more than a month.

Prof Boey spoke of how he and his family had benefited from Mr Lee's policies.

"The secret societies collected their dues in Chinatown, Geylang, Jalan Besar, Lorong Tai Seng, Red Hill... I witnessed some of these things. Pirate taxis roamed the streets and illegal hawkers sold food that passed on diseases. There were race riots in 1964... This was the Singapore I was born into as a child," said Prof Boey.

"You would not have imagined you could end up, 50 years later, in this Singapore and in this NTU," he added.

NTU president Bertil Andersson said that Mr Lee had paid close attention to NTU's development.

"In NTU's early days, he would visit the campus unannounced, typically on weekends, to observe the progress. He suggested a number of improvements such as covered walkways to shelter students from the hot sun, as he said it could get very hot walking from one building to another," said Professor Andersson.

NTU graduate Then M Y, who was there with her husband and daughter, said that she had attended a ministerial forum the university had organised with Mr Lee.

"Back then, we had the impression that he was a very scary man," she said.

"But as you grow up and mature, you start to realise that he was pragmatic. A lot of his policies, even if they were unpopular, were usually right."