Outstanding Science Alumni Awards 2006
LIM Ho Hup
LIM Ho Hup
Past President of NUSS Graduate Society
Audit committee of Nam Lee Pressed Metal Industries Limited
Treasurer of Pacific Economic Cooperation Council Former Director, EDB
Treasurer of Cepat Investment & Management Pte Ltd
Taking an active role in graduate student activities marked the beginning of LIM Ho Hup's long involvement in tertiary education, and thence to Singapore's early development from a trading post towards an industrialized economy.
Mr LIM had joined the University of Malaya in 1949 the year of its foundation in Singapore. Then, the character of university life was markedly different from today: his cohort (in the Science Faculty) then numbered about 100. For most of them, it often took an extra year to finish their first degree, because students came from all over the then Federation of Malaya. Not all schools had laboratory facilities for training their science students. Only two of that cohort completed their first degree by 1952 and Mr LIM was one of the two.
Graduate participation in university affairs was given extra frisson then with the existence of the Guild of Graduates, a statutory body to which the vice chancellor of the university would present his yearly progress report, and significantly, answer any questions put to him.
Mr Lim recalled an event that happened in 1954 when he was doing his masters degree:
"The then vice-chancellor, a well-established member of the British colonial establishment, said that the graduates did not care much for their alma mater. This remark was greatly resented by the graduates, who included myself, and led to the requisitioning of a special meeting which finally passed a resolution to formally censure the acting vice-chancellor for making of that remark."
With the Guild constituted as it was, the graduates had more clout in these matters. This meant greater cohesion and a sense of greater responsibility towards the running of the University. Even so, such action -- taking on the colonial administration even in a peripheral sort of way -- was remarkable for those times. We should recall that this was before the Suez Crisis of 1956, the event historians agree that made Britain finally decide that the Empire would have to end sooner or later. For many, it had seemed that the British would be here for ever and discretion might well be the better part of valour.
Mr Lim commented:
"Some of us believe that this went a long way towards making the graduates a more integral part of university life. Leading the action then were Dr Sreenivasen and Yong Nyuk Lin. These are unusual events before the 1966 Suez crisis, when it had seemed to most of us that the British colonialists were here to stay for long, long time."
Later, Dr Sreenivasen became the vice-chancellor, and Mr Yong became Minister for Education in the self-governing (and later independent) Singapore.
Mr LIM's further involvement in education followed later -- first as the secretary and then as the president of the University of Malaya Society, in 1958. He later also became a member of the university council as the nominee of the Guild of Graduates at the age of 29. By 1975 Mr LIM had served at the council level at all the key tertiary institutions in Singapore, namely, University of Malaya (University of Singapore/NUS), Nanyang University, Singapore Polytechnic, and the Ngee Ann College (later the Ngee Ann Technical College, the antecedent of the Ngee Ann Polytechnic).
During the transformation of Nanyang University to the now NTU, there was difficulty in finding a suitable vice-chancellor after Dr LEE Chiaw Meng had resigned as Minister and vice-chancellor. A committee of four was appointed to perform the statutory functions of the vice-chancellor, which included Mr LIM.
In parallel, Mr LIM also in those years played a key role in Singapore's development in his years as Director at the Economic Development Board in the 1960s, and later as the Director of the Technical Education Department at the Ministry of Education.
Speaking of his involvement then: "In 1961, the EDB was formed, with its main task to convert Singapore from an essentially trading economy to an industrial one. We had to transform the whole government system. In a trading economy, the government's function is regulatory. In an industrializing economy, the emphasis is developmental. We cannot wait for things to happen. Our task is to promote change and take action. A lot of innovations were necessary."
The EDB was in charge of developing the industrial estates like Jurong etc. It also promoted the development of industry-oriented research institutes, and provided industrial financing which commercial banks were not able to do. It spawned DBS and the JTC and started a whole gamut of skills-training programs. The Industrial Research Unit (IRU) evolved into SISIR. There were also several other innovations such as the promotion of the Institute of Management which was started with a subsidy from the EDB. After EDB, Mr LIM went into the private sector, and started the first petrochemical plant in Singapore in the 1970s. In the early 80s, he also became the first president of the ASEAN Finance Corporation, which was set up by the banks in ASEAN countries to promote cross border investments.
"We cannot wait for things to happen. Our task is to promote change and take action."