A Sweet Appreciation for Prof Tan Thiam Soon

Close to 160 staff received their ‘golden tickets’ to attend the intimate affair in-person and express their heartfelt thanks to Prof Tan for dedicating nine years of service as SIT’s President

A Memorable Trip Down SIT Lane 

Prof Chua Kee Chaing, President of SIT, paid tribute to Prof Tan’s many achievements during his tenure as president. Chief among those was Prof Tan’s strategic push for SIT to be a university of applied learning. The strong industry partnerships forged are a testament of Prof Tan’s dedication to SIT’s mission of developing individuals who innovate with industry and impact society. 

Prof Chua also shared that Prof Tan, now SIT’s Institute Professor, is a warm host, as well as a food and wine aficionado. Indeed, as evidenced during a special video montage, Prof Tan’s smiles were the cheeriest when the holy trinity of good food, better company and excellent conversation were present. The video – with contributions from divisions across the university – was a poignant trip down memory lane, highlighting key events during his tenure as President from 2013 to 2021. 


A Measure of a Leader 

Echoing Prof Chua’s sentiments were testimonies from faculty and staff, all of whom described a leader who would not hesitate to get down in the trenches with them. 

Ms Loi Su Min, Assistant Director, Office of the Deputy President (Academic) & Provost, shared about some memorable quotes by Prof Tan that had touched her personally, as an average student who had graduated from a polytechnic during a time when opportunities were limited. “Prof Tan said, “SIT can make a difference by taking in average students and equipping them with skills and knowledge to become professionals in their choice of career,” she recounted. 

“Prof Tan’s words gave me hope that if my child puts in the effort to pursue his dreams and passion, there is a university that is ready for him when he is ready. So thank you Prof Tan, for giving your time to SIT, and the hope that you have inspired in the average person, and parents to the average children.” 

Ms Emily Woo, Lead Professional Officer, Professional Officers Division, shared how students from the Hospitality Business degree programme were in a state of uncertainty during the height of COVID-19. “Our students poured out their concerns, but Prof Tan patiently answered each question thoughtfully. That interaction showed me the care, commitment and consideration Prof Tan has not just for our students, but all the stakeholders involved,” Emily said. 

Of the many conversations Ms Maryam Malek, Senior Manager, Advancement and Alumni had with Prof Tan, she walks away inspired and uplifted each time. “Over the years, I have had the privilege of listening to you speak with our donors. Anyone who hears you speak will understand why we do what we do at SIT and how much difference that makes to our students.” 



Closing a Chapter, Not the Book

Just before senior management and staff gathered over a scrumptious bento lunch to close the event, Prof Tan received a few mementos from staff and management. Mr Gerry Wee, Director, Estates presented Prof Tan with a pencil sketch of our Punggol campus. The sketch was masterfully done by Ms Ong Hooi Ling, Assistant Director for campus development.


Click here to watch the highlights!


Ask Me Anything (AMA) with Prof Tan:

Q: I have two questions. In the last 9 years or so, what was the one thing that gave you the greatest pleasure? 
A: In all honesty, it is seeing the people here who are committed to SIT’s mission. They are willing to go through extraordinary lengths to achieve our objectives, even when operating under constraints. The people here have made all the difference. 

Q: Prof Chua earlier described you as a strategist, a warm person and a foodie. I would add a fourth, as one who is grounded in the community. Given all these qualities, would you consider running as Singapore’s President in 2023? 
A: Wow. It is the most unique question I have received in the last nine years! (A member of the audience quipped, “Say yes first!”) That is a different ballgame. Thank you for thinking so highly of me, but I am not sure I am the right person for that job. 

Q: What was your most memorable meal during your tenure as SIT’s President? 
A: I had a Chinese New Year tradition where I’d invite my senior management team and their spouses to dinner. Many of those meals were highlights. It is not just about the food, but the company enjoying themselves too. I believe that when you have an environment where everyone can work together as a family, you come to know each other outside of work too. 

Q: What do you do in your free time? 
A: I love walking and I walk with my family a lot, especially to discover new good food and nature. I would often walk until I reach a place that looks interesting, then I would take a Grab back to my car. This is how I discover interesting food places from Tanglin Halt to Tampines. 
One thing I am looking forward to is getting back to my professional work and providing solutions to technical problems. I enjoy knowing that my suggestions work for the engineers and the issue is resolved. 

Q: Would you describe yourself as a competitive person? 
A: Yes, I am competitive for my students. I am not concerned about the backgrounds of where the students came from. But when the ‘product’ goes out, I want companies to say they are as good as or better than what they can get from other places. On a personal level though, age has mellowed me.