Distinguished Arts and Social Sciences Alumni Award 2017

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Dr Noeleen Heyzer
Mr Abdullah Tarmugi
Mr Harry Chan Keng Howe
Mr S. Dhanabalan
Emeritus Professor LIM Chong Yah
Mr Ho Kwon Ping


Dr Noeleen Heyzer

Dr Noeleen Heyzer was the former United Nations Under-Secretary General (2007-2015). She was the first woman from outside North America to head the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) becoming its longest serving Executive Director for 13 years (October 1994–August 2007). She was the first women Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission of Asia and the Pacific since its founding in 1947. During her term (2007-2014) she focused the Commission on regional co-operation for a more resilient Asia-Pacific, founded on shared prosperity, social equity, and sustainable development. She was also the United Nations Secretary General ’s Special Adviser for Timor-Leste, working to support peace-building, state-building, and sustainable development in fragile states.

During her leadership of UNIFEM, the organisation assisted over 100 countries in the formulation and implementation of legislation and policies that promote women's security, empowerment and human rights. This resulted in the removal of discriminatory practices, changes in inheritance laws for women, better working conditions for migrant workers, and full participation for women in several peace negotiations and electoral processes including in Liberia, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Timor-Leste, and the inclusion of women as full citizens in the constitution of Afghanistan.

Dr Heyzer played a critical role in the Security Council's adoption and implementation of the landmark Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security, and undertook extensive missions to conflict-affected countries worldwide to help with its implementation.  This has resulted in sexual violence recognised as a war crime, better protection and prevention mechanisms, and women playing a bigger political and socio-economic role shaping the new direction of their conflict-affected country.

She has served on numerous boards and advisory committees of international organizations, including the UNDP Human Development Report; the Asian Development Bank’s Eminent Persons Group; the High-level Commonwealth Commission on Respect and Understanding chaired by Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen. She has received numerous international awards for leadership.

Born in Singapore, Dr Heyzer was the top sociology student of her year, holding a Bachelor of Arts (Upper Hons.) and a Master of Social Sciences from the University of Singapore. She obtained a Doctorate in Social Sciences from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.


Mr Abdullah Tarmugi

Mr Abdullah Tarmugi graduated with a Bachelor of Social Sciences (Hons) in Sociology from the then University of Singapore in 1969 and a Post-graduate Diploma in Urban Studies (Merit) (Developing Countries) from University College, University of London, in 1972 as a Commonwealth Scholar.

Mr Abdullah started his working career as an Urban Sociologist at the Ministry of National Development after graduation and left the Civil Service as a Senior Statistician/Planning Analyst in 1980.  He then joined The Straits Times as a Leader/Feature Writer and became the paper’s Associate News Editor until 1984 when he became active in the political scene in Singapore.  He was elected Member of Parliament Siglap and continued to work in Market Research at the Singapore Press Holdings until 1993.

Mr Abdullah was the MP for Siglap until his retirement in 2011.  During that 27-year period, he held various political offices as Deputy Speaker of Parliament (1989-1992), Minister of State (1993–1994), Senior Minister of State (1994–1995), a Cabinet Minister (1996–2001) and Speaker of Parliament (2002–2011).  He was also concurrently the Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs from 1993 to 2001, apart from his other political portfolios.

Since his retirement from active politics, Mr Abdullah has kept himself busy sitting on the boards of 4 companies as an Independent Director.  He also currently serves as a Member of the NUS Board of Trustees, the Presidential Council on Minority Rights, the Tsao Foundation, The Courage Fund and the SR Nathan Education Upliftment Fund.  He is also the Advisor of Mercy Relief, a home-grown NGO which carries out disaster relief work outside Singapore.




Mr Harry Chan Keng Howe

Mr Harry Chan graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from the then University of Malaya in 1950. He began his civil service career as Assistant Secretary in the Colonial Secretary's Office (1950-1955) and then the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (1955-1959). Later, he served as Assistant Secretary for Finance (1959), Acting Principal Secretary for Education; Secretary of the Public Service Commission (1961-1963) and Legal Service Commission (1962-1968); Acting Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs (1968); Ambassador to Cambodia (1969-1972), Egypt and concurrently accredited to Yugoslavia (1981-1984); High Commissioner to New Zealand (1974-1981), and India and concurrently accredited to Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Iran (1984-1988). Mr Chan completed his public service career at age 61 in 1989.

For a short while before entering the Civil Service, he joined the Straits Times as its first local graduate, and learned much from the chief editor Harry Miller, which came to good use later in his foreign assignments.

Since his graduation until today, at the age of 90, Mr Chan has been active in alumni affairs, commencing with the membership of the Stamford Club, later the NUSS, where he first served as a committee member, then Secretary, Vice-President and finally President in 1963-1964.

The return of the Bukit Timah campus to NUS owed much of its success to Mr Chan’s contribution. He submitted an appeal with a firm reminder that this campus was the intellectual breeding ground for two nations to the Minister of Education, which was supported by 1,700 signatures collected within a week. Mr Chan was later brought into the first batch of Alumni Advisory Board members.

In NUSS, Mr Chan founded the Senior Circle which he chaired for 10 years, both for the benefit of members and for society in general as a pioneering project, particularly with the “Symposium on Positive Ageing “ with its upshot of publications like the “Golden Years – Glorious Years” and “Housing for Singaporean Seniors” which earned close attention in the Parliament.




Mr S. Dhanabalan

Mr S. Dhanabalan graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Economics from the University of Malaya in 1960.

Upon graduation, Mr Dhanabalan joined the Ministry of Finance as an Assistant Secretary, where he was part of the team that worked on the formation of the Economic Development Board.  In 1976, faced with a shortage of people with management experience in politics, his reluctance to become a politician was overidden by a sense of responsibility to Singapore.  Thus began his nearly 20 years of distinguished service: beginning as a Member of Parliament for Kallang, then as Minister in several key Ministries, including Foreign Affairs (1980–1988); Culture (1981–1984); Community Development (1984–1986); National Development (1987–1992); and Trade and Industry (1992–1993).  

After retiring from the political arena in 1996, he continued to serve by leading key government-linked companies.  He was Chairman of Temasek Holdings (1996-2013), Singapore Airlines (1996-98), and DBS Group Holdings (1999-2005), and Director of Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) (1981-2005).

A strong advocate of social causes, he is a patron of the Singapore chapter of Habitat for Humanity and also served as President of the Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA), championing the role of education in developing the potential of Singapore’s Indian community.

Mr Dhanabalan is currently Senior International Advisor of Temasek International; Director of GIC; Member of the Council of Presidential Advisors and Presidential Council for Minority Rights; and Chairman of the Management Advisory Board of the NUS Business School, the Board of Trustees of Temasek Trust and Mandai Park Holdings.

His illustrious career has been marked with numerous awards, including the NTUC Friend of Labour Award in 1979 and NTUC Medal of Honour in 1992.  First awarded the Order of Temasek (Second Class) in 2007 in recognition of his distinguished service to the country, he was further conferred the nation’s top civilian honour, the Order of Temasek (First Class) in 2015.  In 2009, he received the NUS Eminent Alumni Award, the University’s highest honour for alumni."




Emeritus Professor LIM Chong Yah

Born in Malacca, Professor LIM Chong Yah received his BA in Economics, Statistics and English Literature and BA Honours in Economics at the then University of Malaya in Singapore under a Malacca Straits Settlement Scholarship in the early 1950s and his PhD in Economics from Oxford University under a British Commonwealth Scholarship.

Professor Lim was the founding Head of the Division of Applied Economics, University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur. He later worked as the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Head of the Department of Economics and Statistics of the National University of Singapore (NUS) from 1971 to 1992, while he concurrently served as the President of the Economic Society of Singapore for 18 years and as the Editor of the Singapore Economic Review for 13 years.

After his retirement from NUS as Senior Professor in 1992, Professor Lim joined Nanyang Technological University (NTU) as Professor of Economics, promoted to the Albert Winsemius Chair Professor of Economics, and continued to work enthusiastically both in academia and in public service for another two decades.

Professor Lim has produced 30 books (including his autobiography published in 2017), 39 chapters in books, 51 articles in refereed academic journals and 74 international conference papers. He is the creator and proponent of the EGOIN Theory, the Triple C Theory and the S Curve Hypothesis to explain the poverty and affluence of modern nations and the differences in their rates of economic advance.

For his important contributions to the economic and national development of Singapore as founding Chairman of the National Wages Council (1972 – 2001) and the Skills Development Fund Advisory Council (1979 – 1982), the Singapore Government awarded him with three awards: the Public Service Star in 1976, the Meritorious Service Medal in 1983, and the Distinguished Service Order in 2000. Singapore’s National Trade Unions Congress (NTUC) also conferred on him three awards in 1985, 1999, and 2011. In addition, the Economic Society of Indonesia (Ikatan Sarjana Ekonomi Indonesia) conferred on him the distinguished founder’s medal for initiating and co-founding the Federation of ASEAN Economic Associations (FAEA).

For his distinguished services to the University and lifelong contributions to research, higher education, and Singapore’s economic development, NUS conferred on him the Emeritus Professorship and established through public donations in 2001 a Lim Chong Yah Professorship in its Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. NTU also conferred on him the Emeritus Professorship upon his retirement at 80 from the university in 2012.


Mr Ho Kwon Ping

Mr Ho Kwon Ping is Executive Chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings. He is also Executive Chairman of Thai Wah Public Company, the founding and current Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Singapore Management University and a Governor of London Business School.  He is also a Board Director of Diageo, the UK-listed spirits company. 

Educated in Tunghai University, Taiwan; Stanford University, California and the University of Singapore, he worked as a broadcast and financial journalist and was the Economics Editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review in Hong Kong before joining the Thai Wah family business in 1981. In 1994, he launched Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts. Among various awards, Mr Ho received the London Business School Entrepreneurship Award (2005); CEO of the Year at the Singapore Corporate Awards (2008) and CNBC Travel Business Leader Award Asia Pacific (2012). In 2010, he became the first Asian to receive the American Creativity Association Lifetime Achievement Award for his creativity and innovation and was awarded the Singapore Government’s Meritorious Service Medal (2013) for his contribution in the founding of the Singapore Management University as Chairman.

Mr Ho has also been conferred an honorary doctorate by Johnson & Wales University (2000) and from Hong Kong Poly University (2015).

In 2015, his book The Ocean in a Drop: Singapore in the next Fifty Years, was published as a compilation of public lectures he gave as the Inaugural Fellow of the SR Nathan Lecture Series, named after the Sixth President of Singapore. 

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