Inauguration of the Yale-NUS College Campus

Remarks by Professor Pericles Lewis, Founding President, Yale-NUS College
12 October 2015
Yale-NUS College, Singapore

Your Excellency, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong,

Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills), and Senior Minister of State for Defence, Mr Ong Ye Kung,

Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of the United States, Mr Blair Hall,

Yale Corporation Senior Fellow, the Right Honourable Margaret Marshall,

NUS Board of Trustees Chairman Mr Wong Ngit Liong,

Yale-NUS Governing Board Chair, Mdm Kay Kuok,

Board members, Faculty, Staff, Students, Distinguished guests:

Five years ago, two leading universities, one in Singapore and the other in the United States, formed a partnership to create a new community of learning. The National University of Singapore celebrates its 110th anniversary this year, Yale is over three centuries old, and we are gathered today to inaugurate a beautiful new campus for the young child of these two venerable parents: Yale-NUS College. Drawing on the tradition of liberal arts education as practised in the colleges of New England since before the American revolution, on the strengths and diversity of Singaporean education as it has developed since before this nation’s independence, and on even older traditions of learning both here in Asia and in the West, Yale-NUS has striven over the past few years to reimagine liberal education for this century.

We have dedicated ourselves to the principles that underpin advanced learning: free inquiry, open discussion, respect for a diversity of views, and the constant search for knowledge. We reward merit and excellence wherever we can find them, and welcome the best students from Singapore and around the world, regardless of their circumstances. We have developed innovative programmes in which living and learning are intertwined.

Our faculty includes great scholars who are also devoted teachers. In designing a new curriculum, they have sought to answer the question: What must a young person learn in order to lead a responsible life in this century? We attend to the sciences, to statistics and quantitative methods, to the techniques of modern scholarship, and to the great works of our shared heritage. We want our students to learn what is useful and to inquire about what is just, but also to appreciate what is beautiful.

Our staff, from the groundskeepers and dining hall servers to the professionals in academic affairs and administration, have shown great dedication to the mission of this college and have worked long hours to create the best facilities and ensure the highest quality of education for our students. The College has not sprung from the ground without great effort. I would like to thank the many people who have contributed to making this day possible.

NUS President Tan Chorh Chuan has been a visionary leader who has expanded the scope of the University in many ways, including bringing residential liberal arts and sciences education to Singapore; as a result of his leadership, NUS is widely recognised as a premier university in Asia and one of the most innovative academic institutions in the world. From Yale, President Emeritus Richard Levin and current President Peter Salovey have pursued an important mission of internationalisation and have taken this unique opportunity to work with NUS and build a world-class college here in Southeast Asia. Yale Senior Counselor Linda Lorimer has dedicated her effort and expertise to shaping all aspects of campus life. I am very grateful for the contributions of a magnificent governing board and especially our dedicated Board Chair, Madam Kay Kuok.

Madam Kuok is one of our founding benefactors, and I thank these 22 individuals, foundations and corporations for their support of our programmes and especially bursaries and scholarships for our students, which make it possible for talented individuals to attend Yale-NUS regardless of their means. With us today are:

The Family of Chen Chong Swee,

Mr and Mrs Kwee Liong Seen,

The Wu Hsioh Kwang Family,

Mr Zhang Lei,

And representatives of:

Banco Santander,

Binjai Tree,

The Kewalram Chanrai Group,

The Lee Foundation,

The Singapore Exchange,

The Tan Chin Tuan Foundation,

Thank you. Likewise, I would like to express the College’s gratitude to all the over-100 donors who have supported us to date. Your support allows us to pursue our mission of creating an innovative institution of global excellence here in Singapore.

Our new campus, designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects and Forum Architects, magnificently bridges East and West, and provides a conducive environment for our educational programmes. We are delighted to have architects Fred Clarke, Mariko Masuoka, Tan Kok Hiang and Wong Chin Wah here, along with NUS Deputy President for Administration Joseph Mullinix and many others who contributed to the design and building of this remarkable place.

Today, we welcome leaders from over 30 sister colleges and universities around the world, who celebrate with us the continuity of the endeavour for academic excellence. Likewise, today we honour the friendship of the peoples of Singapore and the United States, and the founding of a community that embraces students from 40 different nations, aiming to educate them in a spirit of service to society and the broader international community that is our best hope in an age of great possibilities and grave dangers.

It is fitting that we have the opportunity to welcome Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who has led this nation so ably for over a decade and who has shown an enduring commitment to expanding educational opportunities for all Singaporeans. Prime Minister, we thank you for honouring this ceremony with your presence and for your support for Yale-NUS College. We also commemorate the Founding Prime Minister of Singapore Mr Lee Kuan Yew, whose passing earlier this year greatly moved everyone here and abroad. We are truly inspired by how his dedication to service enabled Singapore to surmount tremendous challenges to become the modern nation it is today.

Colleagues, students, friends—together, we have built this campus. Let us continue to work together to build a community here in Asia that will educate citizens of the world for many generations to come. Thank you.