When top civil servant Benny Lim joined the police force in 1975 at age 18, he was posted to the colonial-era police headquarters in Beach Road.
The police constable caught the attention of his commander Tee Tua Ba, who would later become commissioner of police.
Mr Tee wondered why the young constable did not go to university, despite being smart and capable, and called him up for an interview.
On hearing that he wanted to be a career policeman, the older cop encouraged Mr Lim to apply for a police scholarship.
He got a Public Service Commission scholarship to study at the University of Singapore and, after he graduated, rose through the ranks in the police to become director of the Internal Security Department (ISD).
Mr Lim, 59, Permanent Secretary for National Development and Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister's Office, retires on Saturday after 37 years in the civil service.
Paying tribute to him last night, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong singled out how Mr Lim's experience and judgment were critical when the Jemaah Islamiah terrorist group was discovered here in 2001.
"He led ISD to apprehend the terrorists, and foil their plot to bomb multiple targets in Singapore," Mr Lee said at the annual Administrative Service Dinner and Promotion Ceremony. "Crucially, he led ISD actively to manage the public reactions and helped the Government to rally the broader population."
The ISD also reached out to Muslim religious leaders, who set up the Religious Rehabilitation Group which has successfully rehabilitated many detainees. "Benny is respected and loved as a leader. We will miss him," said Mr Lee.
Last night, Mr Lee also congratulated 65 officers who were promoted, and 21 who were appointed to the Administrative Service.
Topping the promotion list are Mrs Ow Foong Pheng, Permanent Secretary for Trade and Industry; Mr Loh Khum Yean, Permanent Secretary for Manpower; and Mr Chan Heng Kee, Permanent Secretary for Social and Family Development; and Mr Gabriel Lim, chief executive officer of Media Development Authority, who will be appointed a permanent secretary on May 1.