Singapore Presidents Have Been Honoured For Contributions to Country


SINGAPORE – A new mosque, a leading think-tank and a professorship will be named after Singapore’s first president Yusof Ishak to honour his contributions to the country, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at his National Day Rally on Sunday.

The new mosque in Woodlands will be named Masjid Yusof Ishak, the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Iseas) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) will now be known as Iseas-The Yusof Ishak Institute and a Yusof Ishak Professorship in Social Sciences will be started at NUS to enhance research in multi-ethnicity and multiculturalism.

Mr Yusof served as Yang di-Pertuan Negara after Singapore gained self-government in 1959, and as president from independence in 1965 until he died in office in 1970, aged 60, from a heart attack. His portrait has featured on Singapore currency notes since 1999.

We take a look at some of the ways Singapore’s other presidents have been honoured:

Benjamin Sheares (Term of office: 1971-1981)

Benjamin Sheares

Singapore’s second president lends his name to one of the Republic’s most notable bridges – the Benjamin Sheares Bridge. Completed in September 1981, months after Dr Sheares’ death at age 73, the 1.8km bridge is the longest in Singapore.

Since the opening of the Marina Coastal Expressway in December 2013, an arterial road bearing his name – Sheares Avenue – has connected the East Coast Parkway to the Central Business District.

Apart from his contributions to the nation, Dr Sheares was also an outstanding surgeon who was the first Singaporean to be appointed Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Malaya in Singapore in 1950.

In tribute, the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School launched the $2.5 million Benjamin Sheares Professorship in Academic Medicine in 2011, which recognises leadership in medical teaching and research. One of the four advisory colleges at the school is also named after Dr Sheares.

Devan Nair (Term of office: 1981-1985)

Devan Nair

Mr Devan Nair helped found the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) in 1961, and was elected its first secretary-general.

To honour his contribution to the labour movement, the NTUC named an adult education centre after him in 2014. The Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability opened in May and is situated in Jurong East.

Said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at this year’s May Day Rally: “(Devan Nair) was pivotal in forging a united and forward-looking labour movement. This institute is a good way to honour his life as a teacher. He became a unionist, and as a unionist, his passion as a teacher continued.”

Mr Nair died in 2005 at age 82.

Wee Kim Wee (Term of office: 1985-1993)

Wee Kim Wee


The former editorial manager of The Straits Times lends his name to the Nanyang Technological University’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information. The school’s communication studies course was rated sixth-best in the world in rankings released earlier this year by education consultancy Quacquarelli Symonds.

The school was renamed in 2006, a year after Mr Wee’s death. The same year, the university set up the Wee Kim Wee Legacy Fund, which benefits communications students by supporting programmes like Going Overseas for Advanced Reporting (Go-Far), an annual journalism course which exposes students to the challenges of reporting in a foreign country. The Singapore Management University also has a Wee Kim Wee Centre, for better understanding of cultural diversity in the business environment.

A research laboratory at the National Cancer Centre also bears Mr Wee’s name. The Wee Kim Wee Laboratory of Surgical Oncology was set up in 2005 after the Goh Foundation pledged $3 million to the centre. Mr Wee died at age 89 from complications arising from a relapse of his prostate cancer, and also suffered from colon cancer.

Ong Teng Cheong (Term of office: 1993-1999)

Ong Teng Cheong

Singapore’s first elected president Ong Teng Cheong played a major role in the setting up of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and the National Arts Council, and his 1989 recommendation for the construction of a new performing arts centre eventually took shape as the iconic Esplanade.

To honour those contributions to the arts, the NUS set up the Ong Teng Cheong Professorship In Music after Mr Ong’s death in 2002 from cancer at the age of 66. It continues to fund well-known musicians who want to teach at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music.

In 2002, the Singapore Institute of Labour Studies was renamed in honour of Mr Ong, who was a former labour chief. In 2009, the institute, which trains future union leaders, merged with NTUC’ leadership development department and got its present name, Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute.

S R Nathan (Term of office: 1999-2011)

SR Nathan

The Institute of Policy Studies in July 2014 named Banyan Tree Holdings executive chairman Ho Kwon Ping its first S R Nathan Fellow for the Study of Singapore. The fellowship was set up to recognise Mr Nathan’s contributions to public service and the advancement of Singapore.

A professorship at the National University of Singapore, the S R Nathan Professorship in Social Work, is also named after Singapore’s sixth president, who was an early graduate of the university’s department of social work. The professorship will allow distinguished teachers to be brought in, including one full-time faculty member to work with the department’s Centre for Social Development.

There is also the S R Nathan Education Upliftment Fund which supports education assistance programmes and needy students.


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