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Former President S R Nathan receives Honorary Doctorate

05 July 2012

Mr Nathan receiving the Honorary Doctor of Letters from NUS Chancellor Dr Tony Tan

NUS has conferred an Honorary Doctor of Letters on Mr S R Nathan, the former President of Singapore, at the main commencement ceremony on 5 July 2012. Singapore President and NUS Chancellor Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam presented the Honorary Degree, awarded in recognition of exclusive individuals who have provided distinctive services to NUS and the community.

NUS President Prof Tan Chorh Chuan highlighted that among Mr Nathan's many exemplary key values, "dedication to service" is one that really stands out. During the early chaotic days of Singapore's independence when he was a young civil servant, Mr Nathan was constantly tested by challenges and circumstances, including labour unrest in the 1960s. However, he took all these in his stride despite the heavy responsibility he had to shoulder, knowing that the outcome often meant hope and better lives for those he served.

Mr Nathan's illustrious public career where he dedicated his selfless service has contributed significantly to the development and nation building of Singapore. He played key roles in social service development, security and foreign affairs, assuming leadership positions in various ministries including Defence, Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs. He represented the country as a High Commissioner to Malaysia, Ambassador to the United States of America and Ambassador-at-Large. As Singapore's longest-serving President from 1999 to 2011, he also concurrently held the position of NUS Chancellor.

In his acceptance speech, Mr Nathan said that given his family background, he little expected in his early life to be able to get any university qualification. However, he knew the importance of education and managed to get into university against all odds. "And now to be given an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters, at this time in my life, gives me particular pride," he said with emotion.

Mr Nathan's ties to NUS dated back to 1952 when he enrolled in the pioneer batch of students doing Social Studies at the then University of Malaya. He said that joining the University signified the beginning of his intellectual development and he cultivated a habit of learning which has kept him in a continuous quest for knowledge.

He advised the graduating class at the commencement ceremony: "Singapore in the future will face new challenges, and so will you personally. But you will also find, as I did, that wrestling with difficulties helps you grow as individuals. Time after time in my working life I was asked to take on tasks in areas I really did not know much about, and I had to learn on the job," he recalled.

He noted that the most important take from his life has been the importance of getting experience, and then learning from it. "You must analyse what is going on around you, listen to what is being said, and reflect on it," he shared.

To read more on Mr Nathan's conferment and achievements, please see
- Citation
- Acceptance speech