J Y Pillay Global-Asia Programme and Study Award

Professor J Y Pillay, in whose honour the Global-Asia Programme and Study Award are named.

“He was a great teacher, sharp, analytical…,” said Mr Goh Chok Tong, former Prime Minister of Singapore, about Professor J Y Pillay, his one-time boss at the Ministry of Finance. “I have often wondered how my life would have turned out if Joe had not been there at my formative years.”

From people to institutions, Professor Pillay, an outstanding civil servant, national policy maker and corporate leader, transformed all that he touched.

Born in Klang, Malaysia, in 1934, Professor Pillay studied engineering at the University of London’s Imperial College of Science and Technology. He came to Singapore to work at the Ministry of Finance in 1961. For the next three decades, he worked alongside Singapore’s pioneer leaders, shaping many of the country’s eminent institutions.

Under his leadership, Singapore Airlines (he was Chairman from 1972-1996) went from a small company with 12 aircraft to a world-class carrier with a network in 41 countries. In 1978, Singapore Airlines ordered 19 Boeings for US$900 million. The deal was called “the sale of the century” by the US press. “We have done our sums,” said Professor Pillay, a statement typical of the man who was known for his analytical mind and understated style.

Professor Pillay became Chairman of the Development Bank of Singapore (DBS) in 1979. By 1984 the bank’s after-tax profits had almost tripled.

After his retirement from the civil service, Professor Pillay oversaw the creation of the Singapore Exchange (SGX) in 1999 from the merger of the Stock Exchange of Singapore and the Singapore International Monetary Exchange.

To every job, Professor Pillay brought outstanding analytical skills and steely focus. He would tell colleagues, “Whenever you embark on anything, please tell me what is your object. And there must be one. I don’t want five.”

Professor Pillay is currently Rector of NUS University Town’s College of Alice and Peter Tan and Adjunct Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, among other responsibilities.

NUS honoured Professor Pillay, a role model for students, by establishing the J Y Pillay Global-Asia Programme and the J Y Pillay Study Award at Yale-NUS College. The Global-Asia Programme incorporates two Distinguished Professorships, one Fellowship and also innovative academic and student programmes while the Study Award supports financially needy students at the College.

The Global-Asia Programme and Study Award are supported by gifts from Singapore Airlines, Singapore Exchange, BinjaiTree, Low Check Kian, Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara, John Tan Kwang Kherng, ACR Capital Holdings, Allen & Gledhill, Deutsche Bank, Nicholas Kong, Schroder Investment Management (Singapore) Ltd., and other donors who prefer to remain anonymous.

To make a gift in honour of Professor Pillay, please contact the Development Office at giving@yale-nus.edu.sg.