SINGAPORE - Spirits were high despite the pouring rain as more than 12,000 alumni, staff and students of Hwa Chong Institution turned out in force to celebrate the school's 100th anniversary on Thursday (March 21).
The date is also the school's Founder's Day, when it was started as The Chinese High School in 1919.
One of the many alumni who flew back from overseas to pay tribute to their alma mater at the centennial dinner was Dr Sim Choon Kiat.
The 51-year-old is an associate professor of sociology of education at Showa Women's University in Tokyo.
"I flew back because it's to return to where it all began for me and to catch up with old friends," he said. "I want to know that they are doing well and are healthy and happy."
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was the guest of honour at the centennial gala dinner, which was also attended by Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Ng Chee Meng and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.
Hwa Chong Institution, then known as Chinese High, began with 70 students in a small building in Niven Road.
Its notable alumni and former board members include businessman and philanthropist Lee Kong Chian and playwright Kuo Pao Kun. Music composer Liang Wern Fook was also an alumnus of Hwa Chong Junior College.
Dr Liang also composed a ballad specially for the centennial.
The centennial celebrations were centred around the message: "To strive ceaselessly for self-improvement; to serve virtuously for communal growth".
Mr Robson Lee, chairman of the board of directors, said: "Singapore is a multicultural and diverse country with various races and religions. The Government has worked hard for many years to provide a harmonious, prosperous and stable society. It has not been easy.
"So to the bicultural students of Hwa Chong, you must remember and be grateful for the support that the Government has provided the school."
He added that students should remember the motivations of their founders and serve Singapore well.
As part of the celebrations, the school is launching the Kuo Chuan Centennial Art Gallery Project.
The gallery will house the works of pioneer artists-cum-former Hwa Chong teachers like Liu Kang, Chen Wen Hsi and Chen Chong Swee.
The artists blended Eastern and Western styles to create a distinctive "Nanyang style" art form, contributing to Singapore's artistic heritage and culture.
Dr Lim Wee Kiak, chairman of the board of governors, said: "It serves our younger generation to appreciate our local arts and heritage.
"As we celebrate... let us remember the lessons from history as they will inform our future legacy."
Former Hwa Chong principal Tooh Fee San, 79, said: "To witness its flourishing over this century, we owe our success to the collective effort of our board, staff, students, parents, alumni and partners in this journey."
Gardener Mak Chin On, 76, graduated more than 50 years ago and a decade ago he started preparing plants specially to decorate the school for its centennial celebrations. "It is my way of giving back," he said.
Correction note: The article has been edited for accuracy.