Peng Tsu Ying, pioneer educator to the deaf, dies at 92

Mr Peng Tsu Ying set up a school for the deaf in 1954, which became the Singapore School for the Deaf in 1963.
Mr Peng Tsu Ying set up a school for the deaf in 1954, which became the Singapore School for the Deaf in 1963.

Pioneer educator Peng Tsu Ying, 92, who contributed to the deaf community in Singapore for decades, died on Wednesday.

The cause of death was heart failure due to old age, said teacher Dennis Tan, 52, who had regarded Mr Peng as a mentor.

Born in Shanghai, Mr Peng lost his hearing around the age of five after a childhood illness.

He came to Singapore with his wife, who was also deaf, and set up the Singapore Chinese Sign School for the Deaf in 1954, teaching Shanghainese Sign Language to deaf children. In 1963, the school merged with the Oral School for the Deaf and became the Singapore School for the Deaf (SSD). Mr Peng was one of its principals.

The school, which was run by the Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf), closed last year after enrolment dwindled in recent years.

Former SSD principal Hanisnah Kasmuri, in her 50s, remembers Mr Peng as a mentor who was firm but kind. She started out as a teacher in the school around 1985, thinking it would be a temporary job, but Mr Peng's love for sign language and people rubbed off on her, she said.

"He was a fatherly figure and never stingy with praise and encouragement."

In a post on the SADeaf's Facebook page, its president Martin Marini said Mr Peng spent 35 years teaching and mentoring generations of deaf students. "Mr Peng's extraordinary leadership and immense contributions... are widely acknowledged as we mourn the loss of our founder and pioneer deaf educator," he wrote.

Mr Peng did not let his disability stop him from taking part in Grand Prix races in the 1950s and was often seen zipping around the race tracks in open-top sports cars like his Lotus Super Seven. In a 1975 interview, he said he took part in motor sport to prove that "being deaf is no handicap in being skilful".

He inspired others in the deaf community to be confident, said Mr Tan, who was a student at SSD and now teaches at Lighthouse School. "He encouraged me to take part in sports against my hearing schoolmates... (He taught me that) deaf people can do anything except hear."

Mr Peng is survived by three children, seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren, according to his obituary in The Straits Times. A wake is being held at 33A Swiss Club Road until tomorrow.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2018, with the headline 'Pioneer educator to the deaf dies at 92'. Print Edition | Subscribe