Tycoon funds ACS school building to remember son who died on school trip

The new block at Anglo-Chinese School (International) is named after Darren Loh (above), who collapsed in May while helping to build a house in Kota Kinabalu. -- PHOTOS: COURTESY OF ANGLO-CHINESE SCHOOL (INTERNATIONAL) & DAVID LOH
The new block at Anglo-Chinese School (International) is named after Darren Loh (above), who collapsed in May while helping to build a house in Kota Kinabalu. -- PHOTOS: COURTESY OF ANGLO-CHINESE SCHOOL (INTERNATIONAL) & DAVID LOH
The new block at Anglo-Chinese School (International) is named after Darren Loh, who collapsed in May while helping to build a house in Kota Kinabalu. -- PHOTOS: COURTESY OF ANGLO-CHINESE SCHOOL (INTERNATIONAL) & DAVID LOH
The new block at Anglo-Chinese School (International) is named after Darren Loh, who collapsed in May while helping to build a house in Kota Kinabalu. -- PHOTOS: COURTESY OF ANGLO-CHINESE SCHOOL (INTERNATIONAL) & DAVID LOH

ACS (International) building funded by $1 million from tycoon, whose son died during a school trip

When tycoon David Loh Kim Kang's son collapsed and died while on an overseas school trip in May, he did not blame the school.

He blamed himself instead, and even gave Anglo-Chinese School (International) $1 million for a brand-new building.

That building, named the Darren Loh Block after his 17-year-old son, has a library, classrooms, a seminar room and a server room to meet information technology needs. Students have been using it since January, and Mr Loh's donation helped to allay the costs.

"Maybe the school's gesture in naming the building block after him is to inspire more students to be brave and do more for those who are in need, just as my son lost his life helping those in need," said the former UOB Kay Hian remisier who now controls Centurion Properties Group.

Darren, a fifth-grade student, was on an overseas community trip to Malaysia in May this year when he collapsed and died of heart failure.

The teenager had been with 12 other students and three teachers, helping to build a house in a poor village in Kota Kinabalu.

Despite attempts to resuscitate him on the spot, he was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

"If anything, I blame myself for letting him go, knowing he had a congenital heart condition," Mr Loh told The Straits Times.

"This is the guilt I will have to take to my grave."

Through the years, he said, Darren had a strong sense of belonging to the ACS family. He had attended primary school at ACS (Junior) and ACS (Independent), before transferring to ACS (International) in Secondary 2.

Making a "donation to his favourite school in his name is the least I can do in memory of him", the father added.

Said the school's principal, Mr Rob Burrough: "We were pleased to be able to work in partnership with the family to remember Darren and in so doing better support the learning needs of all students.

"The school and the family have been working closely together and supporting each other since the tragedy."

The school held a dedication service in July for the new building, which was attended by Darren's parents and schoolmates, as well as the school's board members and staff.

The Loh family are still coming to terms with their adopted son's death. His younger siblings - a brother and three sisters - are "constantly talking about him", said Mr Loh.

And even with the donation to the school, he and his wife's grief has not eased. "Sleep is a problem and crying comes easy."

ateng@sph.com.sg