Former president Tony Tan Keng Yam received the highest honour from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) yesterday.
Dr Tan, who served as Education Minister from 1985 to 1991, was given the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from NTU for his contributions to the university and Singapore's higher education landscape.
In a citation, Mr Koh Boon Hwee, chairman of NTU's Board of Trustees, said Dr Tan played an instrumental role in setting up NTU and the National University of Singapore (NUS) as the minister-in-charge of both institutions.
"Under Dr Tan's guidance, university education in Singapore became more globalised and was made accessible to more Singaporeans regardless of their family or financial background."
Apart from shaping university education, Dr Tan also played a key role in advancing research in Singapore as chairman of the National Research Foundation and deputy chairman of the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council until 2011.
He was NTU chancellor from 2011 until last year, before he passed on the role to President Halimah Yacob, who presided over NTU's main convocation ceremony yesterday for the first time.
Collaboration between disciplines is not only necessary to advance research - it is critical if we are to tackle the challenges of the future. Medicine needs the humanities to stay ethical; even as technology enables great efficiencies, it is calling into question the very nature of work and what it is to be human.
DR TONY TAN KENG YAM, encouraging graduands to keep learning within and across disciplines, in an acceptance speech.
At the event, former NTU president Bertil Andersson was conferred the title of President Emeritus for his leadership from 2011 until last year.
Two other individuals were presented with honorary degrees - former head of civil service Peter Ho and Lee Foundation chairman Lee Seng Tee.
Mr Ho, who was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science, had a career in public service spanning more than 34 years, with 15 years as permanent secretary in several ministries.
Now senior adviser at the Centre for Strategic Futures, Mr Ho is also chairman of the Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering, set up by NTU in partnership with NUS.
Dr Lee received an honorary Doctor of Letters for his philanthropic contributions to education. His foundation gave $150 million towards the setting up of NTU's Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, which saw its first batch of 52 doctors receive their scrolls yesterday.
In recognition of the gift, the medical school was named after the foundation's late founder and Dr Lee's father, renowned business leader and philanthropist Lee Kong Chian.
In an acceptance speech, Dr Tan encouraged the graduands to keep learning within and across disciplines.
"Collaboration between disciplines is not only necessary to advance research - it is critical if we are to tackle the challenges of the future," he said.
"Medicine needs the humanities to stay ethical; even as technology enables great efficiencies, it is calling into question the very nature of work and what it is to be human."
In a speech, NTU president Subra Suresh said the university hopes to play a role in discussing the benefits as well as potential negative consequences of technological innovation.
To this end, it is in the process of setting up the NTU Institute of Science and Technology for Humanity, which will address the impact of technology on society.
From the new academic year starting next month, undergraduates can take modules on digital literacy, which will cover the ethical and human aspects of digitisation.
A total of 9,755 graduands will be conferred their degrees over 20 ceremonies taking place from yesterday until next Thursday.