Grandchildren of Tan Sri Dr Tan Chin Tuan who serve as council members of the Tan Chin Tuan Foundation. (Pictured from left, seated: Chew Gek Khim, Chew Kwee San and Chew Gek Hiang)
Uber banker, captain of industry and philanthropist Tan Sri Dr Tan Chin Tuan gave generously to various causes through his life.
He also took pride in his Chinese heritage, which is reflected in his significant collection of books on Chinese history. A keen supporter of education, including Chinese studies and culture, Dr Tan had supported the building of the East Asian History of Science library at Needham Research Institute in Cambridge. The library houses a treasure trove of priceless Chinese books, including the work of science historian-Sinologist Dr Joseph Needham on the history of science, technology and medicine in Chinese culture.
Born in 1908 in Singapore, Dr Tan lost his father while at school and started working in the Chinese Commercial Bank (later to become OCBC Bank) at the age of 17. He entered as a junior clerk and retired as Chairman in 1983. Under his stewardship, OCBC became one of the world’s top banks.
Dr Tan was educated in English but neither rejected or replaced one culture with another. Instead, he saw the strengths of both and strove to bridge the two cultures among different groups in Singapore. It is the same multiculturalism that the Tan Chin Tuan Foundation would like to see in our young people.
NUS established the Tan Chin Tuan Professorship in Chinese Studies and the Tan Chin Tuan Chinese Culture and Civilisation Programme to honour a larger-than-life individual, whose legacy of philanthropy is transforming lives even today through the Tan Chin Tuan Foundation. The Programme aims to increase the understanding of China and Chinese culture amongst the students at Yale-NUS College. Under the Program, the Foundation has supported the Chinese Language Scholarship Programme.
Professor Scott Cook, an expert in Chinese history is the inaugural Tan Chin Tuan Professor of Chinese Studies. Professor Cook holds a PhD in Chinese Literature from the University of Michigan and specialises in pre-imperial textual studies and early Chinese intellectual history. He has authored and edited a number of books as well as published numerous articles in both English and Chinese; and is also a recipient of a Fullbright Research Award in Taiwan and an ACLS American Research in the Humanities in China Grant. Former visiting Tan Chin Tuan Professors have included Professor Valerie Hansen and Professor Deborah Davis.