NUS honours Prof Tan Chorh Chuan with University Professor title

Former NUS president Tan Chorh Chuan (second from left) and his successor Tan Eng Chye (right) at a lunch event on Jan 5, which was attended by some 300 guests including President Halimah Yacob and Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - The National University of Singapore (NUS) has given Professor Tan Chorh Chuan - who served as its president for nearly a decade - the title of University Professor.

The status is NUS' highest academic appointment, and is given to senior faculty members who have made long-term contributions and are deeply committed to the university.

Prof Tan Eng Chye, who succeeded Prof Tan Chorh Chuan in January (2018), read the citation on Friday (Jan 5) for his predecessor at a lunch event at Shangri-La Hotel.

Under his watch as NUS president, there has been much growth in new initiatives from opening University Town (UTown) and Yale-NUS College to getting an entrepreneurial ecosystem up and running and embarking on research across borders, said Prof Tan Eng Chye.

Starting January this year (2018), Prof Tan Chorh Chuan has been the chief health scientist at the Ministry of Health (MOH) and executive director of its new Office for Healthcare Transformation, which looks at issues in healthcare outcomes and delivery.

The 58-year-old joins the ranks of four other prominent figures who hold the same University Professor status - Professor Lim Pin, Professor Chong Chi Tat, Professor Wang Gungwu and Professor Shih Choon Fong.

In a speech on Friday, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills), Mr Ong Ye Kung, said that Prof Tan Chorh Chuan is someone who "speaks softly but thinks deeply", and "always goes for the higher goals in life".

He recalled how, for instance during discussions, Prof Tan Chorh Chuan often reminded others about the importance of lifelong skills such as problem-solving beyond meeting employment outcomes.

At the event, Prof Tan Chorh Chuan, who enjoys Chinese landscape painting, presented two versions of a painting he did to NUS chairman, Hsieh Fu Hua, and NUS president, Tan Eng Chye. His painting was modelled after that of Chinese artist Fan Kuan known as Travelers among Mountains and Streams.

In the citation, Prof Tan Eng Chye said that Prof Tan Chorh Chuan has been instrumental in the progress of NUS, now widely recognised as a top institution in Asia, and has adopted new models of learning for Singaporean students.

He served as its provost in 2004 before taking on the role of president at the end of 2008 until last year.

The kidney specialist, who has been appointed NUS' Senior Advisor, has had a long association with the university, graduating from it in 1983, joining its Department of Medicine as a lecturer in 1987 and becoming the youngest NUS dean at the age of 38 in 1997.

He was MOH's director of medical services from 2000 to 2004, during which he led the public health response to the Sars crisis in Singapore. He was awarded the Public Service Star award in 2003 for that, followed by the Public Administration Gold Medal in 2004 for his work at MOH.

At NUS, he played a key role in setting up the Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore's first US-style graduate-entry medical school, which opened in 2005. As the inaugural chief executive of the National University Health System in 2008, he brought the NUS medical and dental schools, and the National University Hospital under single governance.

In a speech on Friday, Professor Tan Eng Chye also shared future plans for NUS. The 56-year-old, who was its provost for the past decade since 2007, has been actively involved in leading groundbreaking initiatives such as the UTown residential college programme. The NUS president will be assisted by Prof Ho Teck Hua, 56, as senior deputy president and provost.

NUS, over the next five years, will re-imagine teaching and learning for the future, said Prof Tan Eng Chye. For example, it will gradually integrate adult learners into more classes, up to 20 per cent for each class, as well as build new start-up nodes globally.

It will also aim to hire 200 new researchers for a start, and pursue top global talent in upcoming areas such as data analytics, artificial intelligence and fintech.

Prof Ho, a world-renowned behavioural scientist, will work with these new hires to develop research areas such as health innovation.

About 300 guests including faculty, alumni and students attended the lunch event. They included President Halimah Yacob, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

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