After spending his entire career of 35 years as an educator at Hwa Chong, Dr Hon Chiew Weng, 60, bid a heartfelt farewell to students, staff and parents yesterday.
Dr Hon, principal of Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) in Bukit Timah, will be retiring by the end of the year, the Ministry of Education (MOE) had announced on Oct 14.
He first joined the Chinese High School - which is now the high school section of HCI - as a physics teacher in 1982. He later assumed the post of dean of administration in the late 1980s.
Five years after the merger of Chinese High School and Hwa Chong Junior College, Dr Hon became the principal of HCI in 2010.
Addressing about 4,000 students, staff, parents and alumni at the school's indoor sports hall, Dr Hon said Hwa Chong has been his stage since he started his career.
He recounted some challenges. A group of 30 teachers left the school because they did not agree with the school turning independent in 1988, he recalled.
"It took us three months to recruit enough teachers... It was very tough. But we never looked back, and since we turned independent, a lot of things have been implemented," he said.
In 2004, HCI introduced the six-year Integrated Programme, where students bypass the O levels to focus on other talents and intellectual curiosity. Three years later, Dr Hon set up a satellite campus in Beijing - a first for a Singapore school - for students to experience immersion.
GRATEFUL TO CONTRIBUTORS
We can go so far only because there are many people who have contributed to the school.
DR HON CHIEW WENG, principal of Hwa Chong Institution, attributing the school's success to its former principals such as Mr Tooh Fee San and Mr Ang Wee Hiong, as well as the strong bonds in the Hwa Chong community.
Dr Hon also encouraged staff and students to conduct research and be independent learners. About half of HCI's 350 teachers now have master's or PhD degrees.
Yesterday, Dr Hon attributed the school's success to its former principals such as Mr Tooh Fee San and Mr Ang Wee Hiong, as well as the strong bonds in the Hwa Chong community.
"We can go so far only because there are many people who have contributed to the school," he said.
Mr Pang Choon How, the current director of mother tongue languages at the MOE's curriculum planning and development division, will succeed him.
Dr Melvyn Lim, HCI's deputy principal of student development, described Dr Hon as a servant leader, pioneer and innovator.
Student council president Gui Ming Jiang, 17, said: "I'll remember him for being very open and never keeping a distance from students. He encourages us to suggest ideas, no matter how unorthodox they may be.
"We will miss the sight of him driving across school on his buggy."