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Lee Kuan Yew receives NUS honorary doctorate

04 June 2013

NUS President Prof Tan congratulating Dr Lee

(From left to right) Chairman of NUS Board of Trustees Mr Wong Ngit Liong, Dr Lee, NUS Chancellor Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, Minister for Education Mr Heng Swee Keat and Prof Tan

Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding Prime Minister, has been conferred the NUS Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws in recognition of his widely admired leadership; his vision, commitment and countless contributions to the economic and societal advancement of the nation; as well as his strong affiliation and contributions to the University. Singapore President and NUS Chancellor Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam presided over the ceremony at the Istana today.

The University's highest form of accolade, the Honorary Degree is granted to individuals who have rendered distinguished service and made a great impact on the University and the Singapore community.

Thanking NUS for the conferment of the honorary degree, Mr Lee noted that education has been critical to the growth and success of Singapore. "I hope that Singaporeans will continue to seek out an education that nurtures them to think critically and innovatively to meet the diverse and complex challenges ahead," said the former Minister Mentor.

In his address at the ceremony, NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan paid tribute to Mr Lee, a highly respected international statesman and a global visionary who transformed Singapore from the Third World to First. He highlighted how Mr Lee exemplifies "the personal attributes that would inspire and energise our students, graduates and broader community in NUS and beyond, as we seek to thrive in a more complex and volatile world."

In particular, such attributes include the ability of "zooming out" to see the big picture while "zooming in" to delve into specific areas; the balance between a great openness to learn from others and the boldness, courage and imagination to pursue a different, and often unconventional course; and the balance between theory and its practical application, said Prof Tan.

Mr Lee's ties to the University can be traced back to his education at Raffles College, Singapore, a predecessor institution of NUS. He later earned a law degree from the University of Cambridge, England and was called to the Bar, Middle Temple, London in 1950. Together with his brother and his wife Madam Kwa Geok Choo, Mr Lee set up a law firm "Lee & Lee", which is now one of Singapore's leading practices.

Delivering the citation on Mr Lee, Professor Simon Chesterman, Dean of the NUS Faculty of Law, said that although Mr Lee did not practise law after leaving "Lee & Lee", Singapore's subsequent transition "from third world to first" owes much to his embrace of the rule of law.

"The foundations of Singapore's role as a financial centre, he later wrote, were the rule of law, an independent judiciary, and a government that was competent, stable and honest," said Prof Chesterman. He cited the latest World Justice Project report on the rule of law which placed Singapore first in the world for order and security, and first in Asia for civil and criminal justice.

In 1959, Mr Lee founded the People's Action Party, becoming Singapore's first Prime Minister in the same year. He served successive terms until his resignation in November 1990, and subsequently remained actively engaged in the nation's development as Senior Minister and later Minister Mentor. He stepped down as Minister Mentor in May 2011 and is currently Senior Advisor to the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation.

To read more on Mr Lee's conferment, please see
- Speech by NUS President
- Citation by Dean, Faculty of Law