Proposal to help needy children of Nantah alumni

Indonesian billionaire and philanthropist Tahir (in yellow) presented a souvenir flag to Singapore's Nantah alumni association president Chia Ban Seng at last Saturday's gala dinner. Mr Chia will organise the next global reunion meeting in Singapore in 20
Indonesian billionaire and philanthropist Tahir (in yellow) presented a souvenir flag to Singapore's Nantah alumni association president Chia Ban Seng at last Saturday's gala dinner. Mr Chia will organise the next global reunion meeting in Singapore in 2018. ST PHOTO: LEONG WENG KAM

Philanthropist pledges $1m to get fund started, and will match donations

Indonesian billionaire and philanthropist Tahir has proposed setting up a charity foundation to help needy students who are children or grandchildren of former Nanyang University (Nantah) graduates complete their tertiary education.

Mr Tahir, 64, who goes by a single name, is himself a Nantah alumnus. He has pledged $1 million to get the foundation started and will also match donations dollar for dollar.

He made the proposal last Saturday at a global reunion of the university's alumni in Bali, organised by graduates in Indonesia.

Speaking to an audience of more than 1,200 at the event's gala dinner at the Rich Prada Bali Hotel, Mr Tahir said: "It is time we put into practice the Nanyang spirit expressed by founders of our university, which includes making sacrifices for our future generations."

While reunions have been great opportunities for old friends to meet, eat, drink and be merry, they should also be meaningful, he said.

He hoped other Nantah alumni would show their support by donating generously.

FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS

It is time we put into practice the Nanyang spirit expressed by founders of our university, which includes making sacrifices for our future generations.

INDONESIAN BILLIONAIRE AND PHILANTHROPIST TAHIR, in proposing the charity foundation.

The scholarship will be only for those studying at four public-funded universities in Singapore, as Nantah was located in Singapore. They are the National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University and Singapore University of Technology and Design.

A committee will be set up soon to work on details such as whether postgraduate students should be included and the amount to give out to the students each year.

Mr Tahir had asked Mr Chia Ban Seng, president of the Association of Nanyang University Graduates in Singapore, to take the lead.

Nantah was founded by the late rubber tycoon Tan Lark Sye, with support from Chinese communities in Singapore and Malaya. It took in its first batch of students in 1955; many of them were from Malaya and elsewhere in South-east Asia.

But Nantah's enrolment declined, due largely to changes in language and education policies in Singapore from the 1960s. It merged with the University of Singapore to become NUS in 1980.

Mr Chia, 77, who will be organising the next global reunion of Nantah alumni in Singapore in 2018, said he supported the idea of the foundation, adding that he and other alumni leaders would need to study the proposal carefully first.

Agreeing, Mr Tan Cheng Huat, 78, president of the Nantah alumni association in Johor, said he would also need to discuss it with his members back home.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2016, with the headline 'Proposal to help needy children of Nantah alumni'. Print Edition | Subscribe