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Yale-NUS College names inaugural President and leadership team

30 May 2012

The inaugural Yale-NUS College leadership team: (from left) Prof Lewis, Prof Lai and Mrs Sohmen-Pao

The Governing Board of Yale-NUS College today announced that Yale University's Professor Pericles Lewis has been appointed the inaugural President of Yale-NUS College and NUS' Professor Lai Choy Heng the Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs). Both men will officially assume their roles on 1 July 2012.

Mrs Doris Sohmen-Pao, who was appointed as Executive Vice President (Administration) earlier this year, rounds out the leadership team.

Prof Lewis joined Yale in 1998 and serves as a faculty member in the English and Comparative Literature departments. A distinguished scholar of British and European literature, he is an internationally recognised leader in the field of modernism and has been instrumental in Yale's establishment and conceptualisation of its academic programmes. He is especially involved in planning Yale-NUS College's new curriculum and has chaired the committee responsible for recruiting its humanities faculty.

At Yale, Prof Lewis has held key administrative positions including Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Comparative Literature, Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Literature Major, Chair of the Committee on Library Policy, and Chair of the Yale College Committee on Majors. He has served on the University Budget Committee and the Executive Committee of Yale's Whitney Humanities Center, heading searches for the University Librarian and the Librarian of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

A graduate of McGill and Stanford universities, Prof Lewis is an author and editor in modernism literature. He has received numerous academic honours and awards for his contribution to extracurricular and intellectual life.

Madam Kay Kuok, Chair of Yale-NUS' Governing Board, said: "Prof Lewis has demonstrated remarkable leadership in helping to launch the new College this past year. We were all very impressed by his enormous passion for the new College and his exceptional ability to identify the most important issues and to motivate and work with others to address them."

NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan noted: "One of the key roles of the inaugural President is to create a dynamic community and energising environment that will enable the College to pioneer a truly innovative educational programme and help realise the promise of this exciting initiative. Prof Lewis is well-suited for this role. He also brings with him a deep knowledge and understanding of Yale."

Yale President Professor Richard Levin added: "Prof Lewis is a naturally talented academic leader, who has demonstrated his capacity for leadership in many important roles at Yale. Most significantly, he has displayed an impressive mastery of the needs of the new College and an infectious enthusiasm that will motivate others to work for its success."

Professor Charles Bailyn, the inaugural Dean of the Faculty at Yale-NUS College and A. Bartlett Giamatti Professor of Astronomy and Physics at Yale, is thrilled with the appointment. "Prof Lewis is a long-time colleague and I look forward to working with him in his new role in the years to come," he said.

Prof Lewis will be dividing his time between New Haven and Singapore during the next academic year. He and his family will move to Singapore before the new College opens in August 2013.

Prof Lai, a theoretical physicist, has been Vice Provost for Academic Personnel at NUS since 2003. Joining NUS as a faculty member in 1980, he has served as Dean of the Faculty of Science, Head of Department for Computational Science and Head of Department for Physics. Since 2007, he has concurrently served as Deputy Director of the Centre for Quantum Technologies, a Research Centre of Excellence at NUS.

Prof Lai received his undergraduate and doctorate degrees from the University of Chicago. The recipient of NUS Faculty Awards for the teaching of physics and computational sciences has published more than 130 papers in internationally refereed journals.

Prof Tan said: "Apart from his distinguished record of research and administrative leadership accomplishments, Prof Lai is passionate about liberal arts education and deeply believes in the potential for Yale-NUS College to pioneer a new model for Asia for the future. With his strong personal interest and expertise in Western classical music and Chinese classics, he brings highly complementary qualities to the Yale-NUS leadership team."

Mrs Sohmen-Pao, who is Executive Vice President (Administration) at Yale-NUS, has held senior positions in both academic and business institutions. She was most recently the Director of Human Capital for Bain & Company, Southeast Asia, and before that, Director of INSEAD's MBA Programme overseeing the Singapore and France campuses. She was a member of the Board of Trustees of Princeton University where she received her first degree. Mrs Sohmen-Pao holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Prof Tan said Mrs Sohmen-Pao brings with her a rare combination of extensive administrative leadership experience and a deep understanding of academia and higher education.

Yale-NUS College is a highly selective liberal arts college developed by Yale and NUS. The new College will welcome an inaugural cohort of 150 students in August 2013 to explore both Western and Asian traditions, histories, values and cultures. The campus will eventually be home to 1,000 students and some 100 faculty.